Interview with Steve Byrne of "Sullivan & Son" on TBS - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite

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By Krista

Interview with Steve Byrne of "Sullivan & Son" on TBS 6/5/13


Moderator: Brad Bernstein
June 5, 2013
11:00 am CT

Operator: Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Steve Byrne, Sullivan & Son call. As a reminder, this call is being recorded. For opening remarks and introductions, it is my pleasure to turn the call over to Mr. Brad Bernstein. Please go ahead sir.

Brad Bernstein: Good morning everyone and thank you for joining the call today and thank you Steve for taking the time as well. The season 2 of Sullivan & Son premiers Thursday, June 13 at 10:00 pm on TBS.

The conference call is now open for questions. Please press star 1 to ask your question. I'm going to turn the call back over to Leah for questions and open it up to Steve as well for your questions. So thank you very much.

Operator: Again, that will be star 1 for any questions. It looks like we'll take our first question from Earl Dittman with Digital Journal. Please go ahead.

Earl Dittman: Steve, how you doing man?

Steve Byrne: Good. Thanks for taking the time Earl. Appreciate it.

Earl Dittman: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. So are you - I'm sure you're real excited about season 2. I mean the first season was fantastic. So I can only imagine this season is even going to be better.

Steve Byrne: Yes. You know, the first season we were tying to figure things out, figure out what works with actors and characters. And it's kind of a, you know, a testing ground. You know, but I think towards the end of the season we started flushing things out and figuring things out and figuring out our strengths as opposed to our weaknesses.

And we really hit the ground running from the first episode back. And we just filmed a great one last night with Billy Gardell from Mike and Molly and then it might be my favorite one. Prior to that I thought the Ken Jeong one was my favorite one. So...

Earl Dittman: Oh yes.

Steve Byrne: ...they just keep getting better and better.

Earl Dittman: Well what do you think it is about the show that really speaks to so many people because I mean for a show - I mean you saw last year was the slaughter of ton of shows and of course, you know, this show comes up and everything's really good. So there's a lot of people watching. What do you think it is about the show that people are relating to?

Steve Byrne: Well I think what makes any show successful is I think any time it has its own voice and it doesn't sound like anything else. And I think that we definitely cornered the market I think in not being so politically correct and we're not a cartoon. We're actually real people speaking these lines.

So I'm just really excited about it. You know, you know, you just never know if people are going to tune in or not but fortunately for us people did tune in. And you think about it, we only had ten episodes. We're a cable show in the middle of summer. And, you know, virtually half of our season was up against some pretty tremendous events.

You know, we had two weeks of the Olympics and then the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. So I'm really excited this summer to see how we do because we won't have those big hurdles.

Earl Dittman: Yes. Yes. And so anything you can reveal about this season at all that - what we can expect from everybody, your character, the other characters that's more fun and more excitement?

Steve Byrne: Yes. I think that the stories are better. I think that - and I'm not knocking the first season because I'm really proud of the first season.

Earl Dittman: No, no, not at all.

Steve Byrne: You know, it was all trial and error and trying to figure things out. But yes, it's just - it's a lot funnier. I mean a lot edgier. We do push the envelope with the show. I should say Hank's character pushes the envelope with the show. Carol and Owen's relationship gets pushed to the line quite a bit.

And I'm just really excited about it. I'm really, really, really excited about it. I, you know, I'm really proud of this one. It's going to be fun.

Earl Dittman: Thanks for the great work and thanks for the great show. I'll pass you on to somebody else. But again, I hope - best of luck with the season 2. I'm expecting season 3.

Steve Byrne: Yes. Thanks Earl. And, you know, you know, if I, you know, to answer your question in terms of revelations, whatever, you know, the cast, the core, there's a lot of great storylines that occur with them and then there's a lot of fun little cameos and some great guest starts as well. So I think it's a little bit of everything.

Earl Dittman: Can't wait. Thanks so much. I appreciate it.

Steve Byrne: Thank you.

Operator: Again ladies and gentlemen, that is star 1 for questions. Our next caller is David Martindale with the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Please go ahead.

David Martindale: Hi Steve. Thanks for doing this call.

Steve Byrne: Oh please, thanks - thank you for taking the time.

David Martindale: Oh sure. Yes. My pleasure. How much have you and real act is smeared all over this character that you play on the show and how much of it's just a character that, you know, maybe has a little bit to do with who you are? I guess I'm asking where do you stop and this character begin?

Steve Byrne: Well I'm waiting until probably season 6 until I pull back the curtain and reveal my true Charlie Sheen side. No that doesn't - no, I think I'm pretty in step with Steve Sullivan. And look, the show, you know, the original pilot was based on what I was going through at the time in my life when I wrote the original version prior to Rob Long stepping in and making it 100 times funnier.

But I was a guy that was a standup comedian and I just toured the country 50 weeks a year, living out of a suitcase and I had a great professional life but no personal life. And I ultimately wanted to have a life that matters. I wanted to be around friends and family. I wanted to have a place that was home to me because home was just hotel rooms and eight ounce bottles of shampoo.

So, you know, that was really the core of it. And I do believe that I - I try to be guided by the moral compass that was instilled in my brain and my heart by my father when I was younger and all through my teens and everything. He's been somebody I still call for advice. So I think I have a pretty good moral compass.

So I think that Steve Sullivan and Steve Byrne are pretty much in step. I'm not sure that I'm as patient as he is with friends or family but we're pretty much in step with each other.

David Martindale: Good deal. Good deal. I have a question about your standup because I know you're going back on the road too. I remember when comedians like George Lopez and Bob Saget, they go watered down to be loveable TV dads and then families would go see them doing standup and their material was so blue that the parents would be holding their hands over the kids ears.

I'm not seeing you live so I don't know the answer but has this become an issue for you? Is there any danger of it becoming an issue for you?

Steve Byrne: Well I'll tell you the minute people start coming to see me live then I'll answer that question. But - I've always had a pretty good following. I think people know what they - what to expect from my standup. My standup I think is pretty reflective of the show in general.

And I think that when they see me they're not going to be as shocked because I'm married to a show that is very not politically correct. And I think that...

David Martindale: (Truthful).

Steve Byrne: ...Hank for example is a part of my personality. I think that Carol there's some aspect of my personality in there. You know, when I wrote the original pilot they were just different voices of my standup that I implemented in all the different characters.

But I knew that when you're writing something like that, you know, especially a standup comedian, you're either going to be, you know, the insane person in a sane world or the sane person in an insane world.

And I went the route where I'm the sane one and all the other characters around me are insane and just dealing with them and reacting to them and that's the route I wanted to go because I though it'd be more fun even though I'm a straight man and I'm throwing soft pitches down the middle for all my other cast mates.

It's still a blast and I think that's the tough part is that when people see my standup sometimes they think ah, he's just going to be a straight man or ((inaudible)).

David Martindale: Oh yes.

Steve Byrne: But then I do some pretty rough stuff and I haven't shocked anybody yet though because again, I think I'm married to the show.

David Martindale: Okay. I remember when I wrote the review for the show originally I said that you were half Irish and half Korean and everybody else in the show is half drunk. But one last thing. Was there an important or pivotal moment in your life when you realized not only that you were funny but you - that you could be funny for a living?

Steve Byrne: Well I'm still waiting for that moment I think because...

David Martindale: Okay.

Steve Byrne: know, every time I hit the stage you hope to God that the new jokes you write are good. But I think it came - a pivotal moment probably came when I was younger and I moved from New Jersey to Pittsburgh. My father worked for the Yellow Pages of all things. So that kind of dates him.

But yes...

David Martindale: Okay.

Steve Byrne: ...we moved there when I was in junior high school. And it's at that time that I realized I got to make new friends. I don't know anybody. I'm the odd man out there. And I just started goofing off and joking around and got attention that way and became friends of a lot of folks and I think it just spiraled from there.

And I never intended to be a standup comedian ever. I had never even been to a standup comedy show in my life until I worked at one in New York City. I finished college in Ohio at Kent State. And I walked up and down Broadway just to all the different restaurants. I walked into Caroline's Comedy Club.

I got a job and within four months I worked up enough courage to try standup myself. And the minute I did it I just knew that's what I was going to do the rest of my life. And 15 years later here I am.

David Martindale: Wow. You - okay.

Steve Byrne: Yes.

David Martindale: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.

Steve Byrne: Oh hey, thank you.

Operator: Again ladies and gentlemen, that will be star 1 for questions. We'll move next to Krista Chain with TV Megasite. Please go ahead.

Krista Chain: Hi Steve.

Steve Byrne: Hey, how are you?

Krista Chain: I'm good. I heard that you were also working on a new comedy special. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Steve Byrne: Sure, yes. I, you know, standup is something I never wanted to be the guy that, you know, I didn't know that we would get a second season. I don't know if we're going to get a third. But standup is something I've done the last 15 years of my life and I love it and I never wanted to stop doing it. Even when we're rehearsing I'll still go to the comedy clubs at night.

So I had been preparing for a third hour special. I wanted to do one every two years. And I had one in 2008, 2010 and I was - I had one already for 2012 but it got a little derailed with the show thank God. And that's an uptown problem to have.

But yes, I finally have carved out enough time to film one here in the fall. And, you know, I think with each special I keep getting strong and the writing keeps getting better and the experience of being in the writer's room especially on Sullivan & Son has helped me really pay attention to the finer details and I think all the little things matter. So I'm really proud of this next special and I can't wait to film it.

Krista Chain: Okay. Great. And can you tell me is there anyone that you would like to have as a guest star on Sullivan & Son that you haven't had yet?

Steve Byrne: Well, you know, I started doing standup years ago and I actually toured the country on this Jameson Whiskey Tour with Billy Gardell. And we're both from Pittsburgh. We became fast friends on that tour. And he came by last season. He came around this season again. And that's been a dream come true.

And then when I first moved to Los Angeles, Ken Jeong - you guys know him from the Hangover. He and I kind of paled around together and hit up the comedy clubs and then he was in the Hangover and blew up. And we had him on the show this season, which is another dream come true because I'm trying to get as many of my friends on.

But I think that ultimately I'll love to see Peter Billingsley or Vince Vaughn on the show because they're the ones that kind of got this snowballing and going. And Vince is the one that originally said, you know, maybe you should create a vehicle for yourself.

And I'd love to get the opportunity to work with him on the show. I think it'd be awesome. I mean he's had every taping. He's always given improv lines to characters for second and third takes. So to have him on would be a treat.

And Peter Billingsley has directed quite a few episodes but I'd love to get him on the other side of the camera because he's probably one of the funniest guys. Everybody knows Vince is hilarious but Pete's got a great sense of humor and I'd love to showcase that at some point.

Krista Chain: Okay. Great. Good luck.

Steve Byrne: Yes. Thank you so much. Thanks for taking time.

Operator: Thank you. Again ladies and gentlemen, please press star 1 for questions. We have a follow up question from Earl Dittman with the Digital Journal. Please go ahead.

Earl Dittman: Hey it's me again. Just wanted to ask you...

Steve Byrne: Oh, I thought we were done.

Earl Dittman: Oh yes, me too. But I had some other questions.

Steve Byrne: Sure. No problem.

Earl Dittman: What - obviously there's a lot of improv going on. I mean do you stick to the script or is it a lot of improv going on?

Steve Byrne: We stick to the script actually. We stick to the ((inaudible)).

Earl Dittman: Really?

Steve Byrne: But what happens is, you know, we have a show where there's four standup comedians and the guys are constantly coming up with lines. So what we do is we do two tapings on tape days in front of a live audience. The first one's a run through.

So every joke, every scene is one take. That's it. Breeze through. Then you kind of get the pacing down and the timing of the jokes and you understand where folks might laugh and as opposed to we got so used to the crew laughing during the week.

And then the second taping we do we do every scene two or three times. And it's in those second and third times that the comics will get to do their improv lines or Vince will run in and whisper something and that Brian Doyle-Murray's here. And that's where a lot of the improv takes place.

But prior to that we do try to respect the script because we know we have such an awesome crew of writers that we want to try to see what they've written to fruition.

Earl Dittman: So what would you say is the most difficult part? I mean I see the fun part of doing - what's the most difficult part of doing a show like this?

Steve Byrne: I'll be completely honest with you. The most difficult part I've yet to discover because every day I come here it's a blessing. I - again, I was a standup - I am a standup comedian. I just traveling the country - traveling's the toughest part. Writing jokes and facing failure every night is a really difficult thing.

But coming here every day is just a treat because Rob Long our show runner and all these incredible writers give us such great material. Getting to walk on the sound stage and hear Christine Ebersole who's got the most contagious laugh over and over again that's kind of when I know a joke hits home is when I hear Christine just cackle.

Brian Doyle-Murray, Dan Lauria, Jodi Long, getting to work with the girls on the show, the guys on the show, it's just been awesome. And Christine Ebersole said it best. She said, "You know, every day I'm here I just feel like I'm fishing. I just tell everybody I'm going fishing." And that's kind of the way I feel. So it has yet to prove to be a difficult thing at all. It's just a blast.

Earl Dittman: Did you got to TBS or TBS came to you?

Steve Byrne: Nobody has ever come to me, so. I definitely went to them. And again this all starts and ends with Vince. Vince is the one that said hey, you should write something for yourself, you know. I don't know how soon Hollywood's going to come banging down your door with the role of a Korean Irish guy.

And I thought yes, it's going to be a long time coming until they make a movie about river dancing and tai kwan do and ((inaudible)). So I should probably write something for myself.

So I wrote it. We went around. We pitched everybody. And then we met Michael Wright. We just felt at home with the guy and he just got it. And we had a long great conversation about television and ethics and morals and humor and comedy. And it was one of the best meetings I've ever had of the very few that I've ever had.

But, you know, we felt at home here. And I think it's also a great thing to be - to have a show on cable as well because you can get away with a lot more as opposed to broadcast. There's jokes that come out of Hank's mouth or Christine's mouth that I don't think we could do on network. So...

Earl Dittman: Yes.

Steve Byrne: ...I'm really fortunate and happy the way things worked out.

Earl Dittman: Well it's a great marriage. I mean we - I was just talking to somebody else about TNT. TNT and TBS is that they allow shows to grow. Even though it might not be a gigantic following in the beginning, they'll take the time to let it grow and let it grow with them, you know, and not, you know, automatically first season let's cut it off because it wasn't right. So it's been - I think it was a perfect marriage for you and a lot of other shows on both networks.

Steve Byrne: Oh thank you. Yes. Yes. I mean and look, it's kind of un-chartered waters right now because they're starting to do a lot more original programming on the comedy end on TBS. So us, Men at Work, Cougar Town, you know, we're all anchored by Conan. But we're going to see what happens, you know.

They gave us the opportunity with the pilot. They gave us the opportunity with the first season. Now a second season. So I hope we just keep - I hope we keep doing the work and I hope we're invited back as much as we can because we're all just having a blast here.

Earl Dittman: You and me both. Okay. I'll leave you alone now. You have a great day.

Steve Byrne: Oh, never a problem.

Earl Dittman: Thanks a lot.

Steve Byrne: Absolutely.

Operator: All right. And we'll take our next question from Stacy Roberts with

Stacy Roberts: Hello Steve.

Steve Byrne: Hey Stacy.

Stacy Roberts: Hi. I'll tell you listening to what you said about the tapings, I'm like on TV Tickets trying to get tickets now to see your show taped.

Steve Byrne: Oh.

Stacy Roberts: So what other guests are we going to see in season 2?

Steve Byrne: You know, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say or not but, you know, I think it's been announced that Billy Gardell is in an episode. It's been announced that Ken Jeong is in an episode. And then we have another guest star that's on a very, very, very, very, very -- I can't shush the verys off -- popular sitcom right now.

And he's one of the four characters -- I'll just give you the clue there -- that's very popular.

Stacy Roberts: So it'll be a big bang when we get to see them?

Steve Byrne: I can't say that Stacy. Don't paint me in a corner. Don't make me be the rat in the coffee can. Okay.

Stacy Roberts: Okay.

Steve Byrne: I gave you the numbers. You do the math. But you're very...

Stacy Roberts: What is like one of your favorite - like favorite jokes from season 2 that we should be looking forward to because there's so many laughs. I mean the show is great.

Steve Byrne: Oh God, from season 2 that's coming up? So my favorite...

Stacy Roberts: Yes. That we should be looking for. Like we don't know when it's going to come up but it'll be like oh my God, okay.

Steve Byrne: I'll just say that it probably involves Hank discussing to Ahmed and Roy why people of their ethnicity should not be playing ice hockey. And I'll leave it at that. It - I mean from the tape read to the taping itself I mean the lines that the writers came up with, the lines that we improved that day in front of the audience is probably the hardest I've laughed.

And then, you know, it's been tough to keep a straight face this season especially with Ken and Billy because we have a personal relationship as well that when they were on - when they were filming, we were filming in front of the audience, that's been the toughest for me to not crack up. So again, I'm excited about the season.

Stacy Roberts: Yes. I mean Ken was great in I think it was the second episode that we got.

Stacy Roberts: Oh, good, good.

Stacy Roberts: And what is the like...

Steve Byrne: And I got to make out with the girl, which was fun.

Stacy Roberts: Yes. So has Vince Vaughn been like a big part of the show or has he stepped back since, you know, helping you launch it?

Steve Byrne: No, I'd say he's as big of a part of it as our show and Rob and as Peter is and as anybody's involved. I mean he is very hands on. He's here all the time. He's in constant communication with us even when he's traveling about the scripts, what he likes about the script, what he feels needs some work.

But, you know, he's been at every taping and I think that's been something that has shocked even the guest stars. I think guest stars show up thinking that this A list movie star on this, you know, TBS show and he's here all the time. And it's very flattering to know that he cares that much.

But again, that's a testament to him and I believe the longevity of his career is that he cares. He cares about every aspect. He cares about the little things and that's something I've noticed in not only being friends with him but being a co-worker with him. So it's something that I appreciate and I - it's a mindset that I'm glad to be educated by because I see that it's all those little things that do matter.

Stacy Roberts: Very cool. Thank you so very much. And I'm looking forward to the second season.

Steve Byrne: Hey. Thanks for taking time.

Stacy Roberts: Thank you.

Operator: There are no further questions at this time.

Brad Bernstein: Well thank you everyone for joining the call today. And once again, thank you Steve for taking the time. As a reminder...

Steve Byrne: Yes.

Brad Bernstein: ...season 2 of Sullivan & Son premiers Thursday June 13 at 10:00 pm on TBS. A transcript of this call will be available within 24 hours. Once again, thank you Steve and thank you everybody for joining us today.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude today's presentation; that you may now disconnect.

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