Interview with Steve Byrne

By Zach Claywell

August 2, 2015

If you only know Steve Byrne as the titular bartender from the TBS show “Sullivan and Son,” then you don’t know jack!

I talked to Byrne before he performed Friday night to a wild, sold-out crowd at The Comedy Zone. Byrne said that it was his first time headlining in Charlotte, but that he loves the city.

“Everyone is just so damn friendly! I’ve been having a blast,” Byrne said, “But I know it’s time to leave when my pants don’t fit anymore! Because I eat all this barbecue, Price’s fried chicken, and Mert’s soul food until I’m like, ‘I gotta get the hell outta here!’”

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Sullivan & Son

Byrne has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom, leveraging his success as a stand-up into his own sitcom, “Sullivan and Sons” which aired for three seasons on TBS.

“It was a great education in terms of working on a show, being an executive producer, acting on a show and being in the writer’s room,” Byrne said. “But now that I’ve had three great years it’s like, alright what’s next?”

Byrne started his comedy career by happenstance. While crashing on his parents’ couch in New York City after graduating from Kent State, Byrne stumbled into a job at the world famous Caroline’s Comedy Club.

“I was sweeping the floors, answering the phones, taking reservations, seating people. I’d never been to a comedy club, never interested in it, but then I saw the new talent showcase they had and I thought ‘I’d like to try that,’” Byrne said, “It took me four months to work up the nerve and then I went to Stand Up New York and tried it out and as soon as I got off stage I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s what I’m doing the rest of my life.’”

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Now, Byrne is a successful stand up who has recorded three hour-long comedy specials, and has performed on every late night talk show from Conan to The Tonight Show. He says his first appearance on The Tonight Show was the most memorable performance of his life.

“The Tonight Show is an institution, so to have done it and have the set go well was like…Wow,” Byrne said, “It was the scaredest I’ve been. And, even, you know, I’ve done it 10 times and the tenth time my heart is pounding inside my chest.”

“But it’s one of those things where your parents watch,” Byrne said, “And they’re really proud. It made me feel like I didn’t let them down in terms of the support they’ve given me over the years.”

Byrne’s third hour-long special “Champion” just debuted on Netflix, and he was working on his fourth hour of comedy on Friday. He started the show with a tongue-in-cheek apology for his new material.

stevebyrnecchampion
www.cc.com

“If you leave here tonight and you go ‘you know what? That wasn’t his best stuff, I didn’t like it.’ At the end of the day…I’m what you can afford,” Byrne joked, “What you can afford is an Asian Kevin Spacey that dresses like a figure skater.” The crowd exploded in laughter.

Byrne killed with material about everything from “looking good for 40,” taking his family to Disney World, and what not to say while folding laundry with your wife (“Woooooooah,” he said, pretending to hold up a pair of panties, “No, I mean woah in a good way!”)

Byrne ended the set with a hilarious audience participation stunt where five hapless volunteers from the audience joined him on stage to start a boy band. The volunteers were all given bizarre and provocative names and asked to dance “Magic Mike” style for a lucky woman from the crowd. The woman was serendipitously celebrating her bachelorette party and was ecstatic when the motley crew of dancers awkwardly tried out their best moves on her. The act culminated in featured comedian Gary Cannon’s burly burlesque moves, in which he stripped off his shirt to the cacophonous cheers of the crowd.

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Photo via Zach Claywell at Comedy Zone 7.31.15

Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it. And, at the risk of ruining it for future audiences I have to say that my description doesn’t begin to do it justice.

The next time Steve Byrne is in town, I’ll be in the front row. And you should be too!

Catch Steve Byrne this week at The Comedy Zone

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