[Full Interview] Stand Up Comedian Steve Byrne
Comedian Steve Byrne has gone through the ranks of the comedy world to become one of the industry’s best comedians. Born and raised from Pittsburgh, PA, Steve Byrne was born to a Korean mother and an Irish father.
He went on to star and be the creator of Sullivan & Son, a half an hour comedy show on TBS along Vince Vaughn for three years.
1. What other jobs did you do before starting stand up comedy?
EVERYTHING! Washed cars, cooked in kitchens, washed dishes, waited tables, sold kitchen knives door to door,
delivered videos back when people watched videos, golf caddy, telemarketing, you name it, I got fired from it.
2. How did you know you wanted to be a comedian?
The first time I did stand up, it was like the first time I had sex: it was quick, I cried immediately afterward and I knew I had to do it again, as soon as possible. I was hooked. In all honesty, when I saw Gary Cannon doing it, I knew, well, if he can do this…
3. If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing?
Selling my body as an instrument of passion.
4. Where are some of your favorite places to perform?
New York City, my first 7 years were cutting my teeth in the clubs. I always felt like I got my masters in Manhattan. There’s a vibe to the NYC clubs. You just feel like you’re part of the city when doing those clubs. It’s hard to explain but I feel the same way about Vegas. I love Nashville too. Usually, it’s a city that has great food as well. NEW ORLEANS!!! Bad comedy city but I always just have fun and great meals.
5. Who are some of your favorite up-and-comers in the comedy world?
Camilla Cleese is someone I’ve worked with that I enjoy watching. Very funny and great jokes. Melissa Villasenor. She’s on SNL and I love how positive she is. She’s got a really likable stage presence. Just easy to watch her at The Comedy Store. Patrick Keane has been doing it a while but GREAT WRITER!!! Ryan Dalton as well. Really funny guy.
6. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t drink before your set.
7. When did you feel like you were a pro comedian?
When I got passed at the Comedy Cellar. I didn’t realize at the time what a big deal it was. Had I known, I may have been a lot more nervous but that was the first club I passed at in NYC.
8. How often do you perform comedy per week?
Back in the day, in NYC, I would do 7-8 shows a night. After 21 years, I do most of my work on the road and try to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids. I probably do 5-6 shows a week now. I used to do that in one night when I was much younger.
9. What are your favorite comedy clubs that you perform at?
Cellar, Gotham, The Stand, Hilarities in Cleveland, The Comedy Store, Comedy on State. There’s some that just rock. There’s some that are a chore but at the end of the day, I make a living making people laugh, so there all pretty great.
10. How do you deal with hecklers?
I just don’t let them outwit me. I for the most part just have confidence in myself and know I do this for a living. Just make sure to end on a laugh, trump their comment but make them laugh as well. It’s a part of the gig and a tussle I’m always looking forward to.
11. What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t just write stand up. Write your own projects. I auditioned for tv shows. Rarely got cast. Wrote my own tv show, it ran for 3 seasons. I auditioned for movies. Rarely got to be a part of it. Wrote my own screenplay and I just directed a feature film I wrote. I wish I got started much earlier.
12. How would you describe your brand of comedy?
I like to try to make sure everyone can enjoy my act. I never just want to be the home team and get applause from appeasing a certain type of person or group. I want em all.
13. What do you talk about in your act?
Identity. I’m Korean and Irish and it’s given me a perspective I took for granted when I was younger but as I got older the more I explored it, the more I found I could mine out of it.
14. How did you develop your style of stand up? Who were your influences growing up; both from the world of comedy and elsewhere?
I developed who I am on the road. I did 7 years in NYC, I live in LA but the majority of my act has been developed on the road. Going to Texas, San Fran, Iowa, Boston. These are 4 very different markets for example but I want a joke to work just as well in Dallas as I do in Des Moines. I’ve been very conscious of that especially in the last few years.
15. I love to interview comedians, Can I ask what happens when you are in front of a crowd, and no one laughs?
You comment on the reality of the bomb and tell the next joke. Just move on. The audiences aren’t going to dwell on it harder than I am, they don’t care. They want to laugh, so make em laugh.
16. What made you decide to be a comedian? Were you born funny?
I got a job at a comedy club out of college. Never saw stand up live, never wanted to be a comedian but I just keep watching all the comics and thought, that looks like fun. I tried it out, Sept. 30, 1997, and never looked back.
17. You wrote and directed your first film about stand up comedy that was produced by Vince Vaughn. When and how can people see this movie?
This film will be released later this year. We are in the final stages of editing right now. If you really want to see it, just wire me 2.5 million dollars and I’ll send you the link.
18. Your an international comedian and have performed many places around the world. Do you have some favorite countries that you have performed at and if so which are they?
I just got back from Australia and had a great time there. Really friendly country. I LOVE THE UK. Got to work with the Impractical Jokers and just had a killer run working with those guys and seeing all the lovely cities out there.
19. Is there anything else that you wish to promote?
I’ve got a feature film, The Opening Act coming out soon. A doc about the Amazing Johnathan called Always Amazing coming out this year and I’m getting ready to tape my next hour, it’ll be my 5th. It’s my best work and then I may call it quits for a while. I’ve worked so hard on this one, I’m just a bit burnt out.