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COMEDY : America's Most Weaselly : Today's kids have their own bands, their own cable network and now, their own comedian--Pauly Shore, part MTV veejay, part comic, part spokesman for his generation. Is this buff dude a New Kid on the Block of comedy, or, as he puts it, the future of America?

June 23, 1991|DAVID WHARTON | David Wharton is a Times staff writer who writes about entertainment for the Westside and San Fernando Valley editions. and

His stand-up comedy routine is not so much jokes as it is a guided tour of modern American youth delivered as a free-form monologue in surf-rap slang. His style is boyish and hip, his persona a 21-year-old half-brained kid in single-minded pursuit of parties, girls and gnarly guitar solos.

"Stoney," he tells his fans. "You're chillin' major with the Weasel."

Ten years ago, Pauly Shore's act would have had nowhere to go. Adult audiences in comedy clubs can barely decipher what he's saying, let alone appreciate it.

But today there is a sizable younger audience of college and high-school students and even smaller kids--the "crusty little dudes" as he calls them--who have embraced Shore and "their" comedian. He has reached this market through the cultural medium of their generation--MTV.

Watching "Totally Pauly," a two-hour daily show, is like seeing your little brother play with Dad's video camera. Instead of simply acting as a veejay, Shore, who calls himself "the Weasel," acts out impromptu story lines that air in short segments between videos.

He might be cruising Sunset Strip in search of fresh nugs or sitting at a sushi bar chowing some major grindage. He might be freakin' at a Texas dude ranch or just chillin' solo in his bedroom. The action is unscripted and entirely unrehearsed.

According to the ratings, his faithful watch these escapades religiously. Those same fans have bought 65,000 copies of Shore's first album, "The Future of America," surprisingly successful for a previously unknown comic's debut record. On a recent national tour of mostly college campuses, Shore sold out all 34 performances.

"Pauly's the New Kids on the Block of comedy," says fellow comedian Paul Rodriguez. "He has all these 14-year-olds who are crazy about him."

To some degree, this success should not be surprising. Shore's father, Sammy Shore, started doing stand-up comedy back when the only jobs were in cocktail lounges and strip joints. Mitzi, his mother, has spent the last two decades making the Comedy Store in Hollywood one of the country's premier clubs. Shore grew up with Richard Pryor and Robin Williams hanging around the house.

Yet any comedic technique he may have absorbed plays a small part in his routine. The Shore you see on screen isn't that different from the one who sits by the pool at his mother's Hollywood Hills house, where he still lives.

His hair splays wildly from his head. In his colored scarves and tattered jeans and rings on his fingers, he's like some haywire Gypsy.

He talks about his show as if it were a major party he weas'd into. "I always wanted to be on MTV," he says. "Do you think CBS is cooler? Do you think I want people coming up to me, 'Aren't you that guy on "Alf"?' "

The decision to become a comic seemed simple enough. It was either that or go to college.

"I was cruising on the high-school highway and I ate it," Shore, 21, recalls. "Those SAT things were coming up and I knew I wasn't going that route. I thought, 'If you start comedy at the beginning of 12th grade, in a year you'll be pretty good.' I got my little comedy note pad and a tape recorder and started writing."

His parents divorced when he was young and, after that, Mitzi took ownership of the Comedy Store and spent long hours running the club. Comedians who regularly performed there were pressed into service as Pauly's baby-sitters.

"I remember him trying to cut up a room with Robin Williams and Billy Crystal and Richard Pryor and myself," Rodriguez says. "He was this little guy doing shtick for us."

The Shore house was a favored hangout for comics to drop by after working the club. "Pauly used to sit on the steps and watch. He could mimic all of them," Mitzi says. "There will never be another kid who learned the profession like he did."

As a youngster, though, he was more concerned with skateboarding and break-dancing. Then, when he was 14 and working as a short-order cook at the club's Westwood branch, his mother noticed him watching the stage. "He may not have known it," she says, "but in his gut he was studying comedy."

He was also making friends. Sam Kinison was a struggling comedian who also worked as the doorman and Pauly fed him burgers. Kinison returned the favor by hiring Shore as his opening act last year.

At the beginning of Shore's standup career he worked clubs around town with an act that included a Jewish break-dance. "The first he played the comedy store, he called and said 'Dad, I bombed in front of Mom,' " his father recalls. "I said, 'what's the big deal? I always bombed in front of her too.' "

Growing up around so many comedians, Shore could have become an amalgam of all those acts.

"When you watch the true geniuses, they play themselves," Mitzi says. "That's what he picked up."

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