Steve Byrne is the type of dude who looks familiar. You know him from somewhere, but can’t quite place it. Perhaps he’s a local legend in your town--the one with the funny real estate signs. Or maybe he’s just your friend’s dad. Or maybe he’s the guy from those commercials of that television show you sorta know.
It’s that last one.
“I look like someone people went to high school with,” says Steve Byrne, creator and star of Sullivan & Son, a TBS comedy revolving around a corporate lawyer (Byrne) who leaves his job to take over his parents’ bar in Pittsburgh. The bar, as many such establishments are,, morphs into the town hall for the surrounding neighborhood--where life venting meets valid issue raising, all of which combines for unlikely friendships and out of the box humor.
We continue to chat. Byrne talks about his newfound acting chops, what its like to work with executive producer Vince Vaughn, and his life as a pretty successful standup comedian. He’s wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins jacket, so I can’t help but point out the fact that the Islanders sort of gave his squad a run for their money. He gets into it--he knows his shit when it comes to hockey. Much more than I do. That’s a bar owner for you.
We’re talking about all of this at Sullivan & Son’s hangover press junket (featuring some pretty tremendous french toast), at New York City’s famed Gotham Comedy Club. It’s a pretty applicable location. Cast members Byrne, Owen Benjamin, Ahmed Ahmed, and Roy Wood Jr., all present, are all successful stand-ups making the leap into acting. Byrne actually created the characters for the comics, making it so that their diverse and entertaining styles were tailored quite nicely to the small screen. Talking to all of them, you really get a sense of how everyone meshes--Benjamin, around 30, takes his stoner-philosophizer demeanor to improvise profound thoughts and witty observations. Wood, the “life of the party” Cedric the Entertainer type, plays the role of dude who makes no apologies. Ahmed, an actor turned standup, brings venerable wisdom and a heritage that’s both a punching bag and a switchblade.
Talking to actors and entertainment types often has this notion. There’s the “talent,” and then there’s you. Wall in between. Don’t broach the wall, because we’re dealing with major “talent.” “Talent” meaning egos. Egos meaning...well, you’ve seen TMZ.
That didn’t exist here. These guys were grounded, these guys were entertaining, these guys were...guys you’d want to hang out with at a bar. For me, the whole thing didn’t feel like a work obligation at all---it felt like shooting the shit with people whilst waiting for a work obligation.
Of course, the focus was the show, and what was on slate for the upcoming season. They discussed their campaign to raise ratings--basically grassroots through their comedy tour, stopping at different cities. Like politicians almost, except that they weren’t wearing suits, didn’t need photo opps, and therefore had nothing to hide. Basically, these are just a bunch of guys you know who also happen to be on TV. In other words, they were real.
I’m actually pretty excited to watch tonight. Those guys from the commercials are some pretty cool dudes.
WATCH SULLIVAN AND SON TONIGHT ON TBS, at 10/9c. For more info, visit here