Who: After winning TBS’ “Standup or Sitdown Comedy Challenge” in 2006, Los Angeles-based comedian Steve Byrne shot to success, appearing in comedy events and festivals (Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Tour, Just for Laughs Festival). He’s starred in Netflix specials such as “Champion” as well as the sitcom “Sullivan & Son,” which ran for three seasons on TBS. Byrne is road-testing material for an upcoming special to be filmed later this year. In the meantime, you can catch him performing live April 25 at the Domino Room in Bend. Tickets are $20 plus fees at bendticket.com.
Q: How did you get your start in comedy? Did you come from a funny family, or were you a class clown?
A: I moved from New Jersey to Pittsburgh when I was very young. I think it was like at that transitional age when you’re 10 or 11. I think that’s when my sense of humor developed, maybe, because I was trying to crack jokes to make friends. I think that’s where it kind of started for me. I’d never been to a stand-up show, was never really all that interested other than what I’d see on TV. I finished college in Ohio, and I moved to New York City. I was basically crashed on my parents couch for three months. I said, “Can I crash here and experience the city, and I’ll get out of your hair?” They said, “Of course.” The first day I got there, I remember, I said, “I’m not coming home till I get a job.” I started on 86th and Broadway, walked all the way down, and I got to 50th and Broadway. I walked into Carolines comedy club. The manager happened to be at the host stand. … I said, “I’ll do anything.” … he said, “Come back tomorrow.” I said, “Great.” So that’s kind of how I got into stand-up. On a whim I got a job at a club. … I just got to see everybody, and I just thought, “That looks like a lot of fun.” And then four months later I went to my first open mic.
Q: What was it like?
A: I always say it was like the first time I ever had sex. It was fast, I cried when I finished, and I knew I wanted to do it again immediately. And that’s kind of how I got hooked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Stand-up for me, especially at the beginning, was like meeting a girl. You’re head over heels; it’s all you can think about. I was so consumed and entranced by stand-up. For seven years in New York City, I never looked back. Every holiday, I was doing six, seven, eight shows a night. It was the best.
Q: You hear so much from comedians complaining about political correctness, they can’t perform at college campuses. Do you run into that? Your material — you’re not afraid to go there with “fat white girls” and that sort of thing.
A: (Chuckles) Yeah, I think whenever anybody’s drinking the Kool-Aid, that’s when I kind of like to explore the other side of the fence. It’s not just to be an antagonist or contrarian. I just don’t buy it. Anybody that gets that emotionally involved in politics — even with late night, every talk show is so entrenched with disputing Trump and the administration. I don’t get emotionally involved in politics. … Whoever’s in office, I’ll take potshots at. The last two or three years, I’ve been working on this new hour. … I’ve been testing it on the road. It does great in Houston, Texas. It does great in San Francisco.
Q: When is that going to air?
A: I’m not sure. I’m going to film it either late summer or early fall. From then it’s usually a six-month turnaround.
Q: Comedy Central, you think?
A: I’m not sure who’s going to be the buyer. … The first two were Comedy Central, then it was Netflix, then it was Showtime. We’ll see where this next one goes. But it’s going to be pretty cool. Nobody’s ever seen an hour like this. So many hours you see these days, it’s just somebody in front of a curtain for an hour. I just thought visually, aesthetically, I have to do something different because Netflix has flooded the market with these hour specials. I’m going to do a talk show, but I’m the only one on (it). I come out and do a Carsonesque monologue. I do a quote-unquote panel, which is storytelling or preconceived bits. And then the last 20 minutes is straight stand-up next to the band. And a lot of interaction with the band as well, which will visually be a lot of fun. So it will visually look like you’re watching a talk show. It will be a talk show format. It’s basically like three styles of writing, but only comics, I think, would notice that.
Q: That makes me wonder, do you have ambitions to have a talk show someday?
A: Maybe when I was younger, perhaps, but these days, they’re so polarizing that I wouldn’t want to be part of that camp. And to some degree, it’s kind of a dated format. I used to watch talk shows when I was younger, and I have friends that do comedy spots on talk shows. I just don’t watch them anymore. I literally watch the clips on YouTube, and that’s it.
Q: What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a comedian?
A: I get asked that every now and then, and I honestly have no idea. I just know whatever I would’ve been doing in an alternate universe, I would’ve worked hard at it. I’ve always been a hard worker. Even when I was seating tables, I was a hardworking host, or hardworking at cleaning the floors. … For for some reason or another, I think sometimes people chase a destiny, and I think sometimes that may just kind of land in your lap. I think, had I walked into a Radio Shack two blocks earlier in New York City, maybe I would’ve worked there and been in corporate and then I would’ve lost my job, and who knows where I’d be now. I’m just so fortunate that stand-up, everything kind of worked out for me.
— David Jasper, The Bulletin