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Steve Byrne, Comedian

October 12, 2011

Steve Byrne:

First off, can you tell readers  how you decided to become a comic –what was that moment when you realized ” this is it – this is what I am going to do with my life!”

I never sought out to become a comic.  I ended up getting a job right out of college at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City, sweeping the floor, taking reservations, etc..  I watched all the young comics come in and out of the club and thought “I’d love to try that out”.  

After my first time on stage, I knew that stand up is what I was going to do the rest of my life.  Never knowing it could be a career.  I’ve been very fortunate.

You’ve been in a number of movies, shows and venues. What’s been the most exciting experience so far for you?

To be honest, I have 2 memorable moments that have been exciting.  

Anytime I do a Wild West Comedy Show with Vince Vaughn, Ahmed Ahmed, Owen Benjamin and Peter Billingsley.  Anytime you get to do a show in a theatre that is filled with people excited for a great show with such a talented cast, it has always been a blast.  Not only getting to be a part of that show but getting to work with people that you respect and are you’re friends.  

The other times I love performing are for The USO.  I absolutely have so much respect for the men and women who serve our country.  I try to do a tour, once a year, abroad to remind them of the laughs that they may be missing back home stateside.  It’s always a true honor and exciting getting to see the all the bases and meeting all the great troops.

It’s not all glamour is it? How hard is it traveling constantly and starting off, trying to make  ends meet?

It is far from glamorous.  The traveling can be tough but as long as your always creating and working with a purpose and a goal, it’s worth it.  I’ve toured non stop fifty weeks a year for seven years trying to pump out a new Comedy Central Special  every two years.  I am about to film my third hour.  

If I wasn’t constantly creating, I’d be miserable.  When you’re starting off, no matter how tough it is, there is a romantic version most performers play out in their heads of, “it can only get better, do the hard work now, pay your dues and it will all pay off”.  I believe if you do out work everyone you know and do the best work you can, that can be very possible.

All things bring equal – would you rather act or do comedy? Why?

I would rather do stand up.  It’s what I’ve committed thirteen years of my life to.  I absolutely love the instant reaction of knowing if something you dreamed up is as funny to strangers as it is to you.   That makes it all worth it to me.  I get such a great feeling from making complete strangers laugh.  

It’s quite a positive job on all fronts for me.  What you give and what you get.

You intentionally emphasize differences in race and culture in your shows when  others are afraid to do so. How did you decide to focus on the differences –and did the variety of  ethnicities in Pittsburgh help inspire that direction?

I decided to focus on race and identity when I was questioning what I consider myself.  Am I Korean?  Am I Irish?  I looked at it as I am American.  And I look at others as Americans.  I always want to be inclusive with my material to everyone and not exclusive to anyone.  

I want everyone to enjoy my shows, no matter your background.  I can’t say Pittsburgh helped me with my comedy.  I grew up there.  As I got into my twenties as a comic in NYC, that is where I became a comic.  Pittsburgh helped me to become who I am today, a man with a blue-collar mindset and midwestern values.  

Are there audiences that just don’t get it and take too much offense to your material?

I don’t think so.  Not on the whole, or not a city per say.  Are there individuals that don’t like me?  Of course.  There’s people that hate Sinatra, the Beatles and Elvis.  They’re huge!  But you can’t please everyone.  There’s people that don’t like Jesus!  I mean, I am not comparing myself to them but you simply can not please everyone.  You have to do what message means the most to you and hope it resonates with a sect of the population and grow that audience.  

If people take offense to my jokes, then they can watch someone else.  My job is to entertain the people that dig my jokes and constantly stay relevant to them.

Lots of pressure to be a sports fan in Pittsburgh. How did this influence your comedy?

Sports hasn’t influenced my comedy.  Being a Pittsburgher, I’ve had lots to root for.  I was in high school when the Pirates could not get past the Braves in the early 90’s.  The last time the Bucs were good.  I was there to see Lemieux and the great teams that the Pens assembled in the early 90’s take the cup.  I went to the celebrations at Point State Park and Three Rivers in ’92.  It was great.  

Traveling the country and seeing every city, Pittsburgh kicks ass!  It’s a beautiful city, the people are REAL, they call you out on your BS but are always well intended and the Steelers will always be sold out.  Great city, great sports town!

Who are your favorite sports teams and athletes – and what makes them so?

Lemieux.  He’s first class all the way.  I mean, the guy got cancer and still won a scoring title.  He’s considered second to Gretzky and he was never healthy.  If he was, we’d be talking about a different great one.  He could’ve sold out but he knew a great sports city like Pittsburgh deserves a great team like the Pens and he fought to keep them there.  

As much as he’s done on the ice, he’s done more off the ice in my mind to really contribute to that great city.  Lemieux’s legacy in Pittsburgh will never be topped by anyone, other than perhaps the Rooney’s.   

Ever perform in front of any Pittsburgh athletes or meet any? If so, what was that like?

Never.  I’ve never had any of them come out?  I sent a box of dvd’s to the Pirates and the same to the Pens.  I’ve sent DVD’s to Hines Ward because we are both half Korean and I’ve never heard from any of them.  

Whenever I have performed in Pitt, I’ve never had any of them come by.  There’s a million reasons why that can be the case, offseason, whatever but it kind of sucks.   

If you were the GM of any Pittsburgh team, which would it be, why, and what would your first  big decision as GM be?

I’d be the GM of the Pens and I’d get in and trade Matt Cooke.  I think what happened at the end of last year with the Isles was bothersome but then we have Cooke going around and contradicting the type of play we are advocating.  He may be a great guy and he may change his style of play but I’m kind of a zero tolerance kind of guy.  

Who are some of the easiest/funniest athletes to make fun of. And why?

Big Ben.  It’s run its course but man, get your shit together pal.

Where can fans see you next and can they purchase your material on Cd/print etc.? If so, where?

Itunes, Netflix.  I’m filming a pilot for TBS with Vince Vaughn spearheading it.  I’m also filming my third hour special this winter.   

Any last thoughts for readers?

Watch Mike and Molly with the greatest Pittsburgher I know, Billy Gardell.  That man is first class all the way.  He’s aces in my book.

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