Tag: Interview

Interview with Steve Byrne – Director of “The Opening Act”

[Editor’s note: This was meant to be a video interview and going great, until about the last two minutes. Then my computer froze. Much embarrassment. It was finished on a phone where I had to write down answers on notes. Most of the interview the phrasing is accurate as the audio recording saved, magically.]

Review of The Opening Act can be seen here!


Gorgon Reviews: Thanks for stopping by Steve.

Steve Byrne: Thank you for having me, I appreciate it!

GR: First question, what is the first movie you remember seeing in theaters growing up?

SB: Superman! Directed by Richard Donner, starring Christopher Reeve, that’s the first film I remember seeing.

GR: You are the first person I’ve interviewed who had that answer just ready to go, usually people are caught off guard and have to think for awhile.

SB: (laughs) Well its my favorite movie of all time, I remember seeing it, yeah.

GR: Do you remember how old you were?

SB: Well, I must have been 3 or 4 at the time, I just remember a second of it. I remember seeing it. And then I remember seeing it on TV when I was a little kid too, and just being enamored by it. And to this day it is probably one of my favorite films.

GR: Steve, what movie made you cry the most?

SB: (Cringes) Okay this is going to be embarrassing, and I am sure you heard this before from other people. I’ve only seen my father cry once before in my life, and it was when his father died, and my daughter has seen me cry during episodes of Shark Tank, okay?


GR: I let loose pretty easily. I would say I’ve seen Up quite a bit, and and that first 8 minutes of Up has gotten to me every single time. EVERY single time I watch that. And it is on quite a bit in our household, I just get misty eyed.

GR: I am surprised I got such a real answer there, because that question was in your stand up special almost a decade and a half ago. (Steve laughs again). So you had an episode of Comedy Central Presents in the mid-2000s and at the beginning of your movie, you featured a lot of clips from that series. How much did that show mean to you and help advance your own career?

SB: Comedy Central Presents was the first thing I had, at the time it was like, all the young comics in New York City, and across the country, it was their first real kind of break. And for sure that was my first break. Absolutely, without a doubt.

That and BET’s ComicView. (Laughs a lot). I did ComicView twice for some reason, I don’t know how I ended up there, but I got a standing ovation the first time I did it. So that has probably something to do with it. And I got a lot of college work out of it. But Comedy Central Presents was the cool one. I was like, “Yeah, alright, I made it. I’m on my way!”

GR: I watched a lot of those myself during that time so when they all started flashing across the beginning of the movie, I realized I’ve seen all those specials, and that is when it clicked that I knew your name before from your special there.

GR: Stand up and acting have a lot of similarities, but what made you want to transition to directing instead?

SB: Well, I, wrote this script, as an exercise, just to see if I could write a screenplay, if I’d have the discipline to do it. And I thought, well, if I am going to invest my time in writing something, why not write about something that I want to see, and I’ve never seen something from A-Z a film about stand up comedy.

So I just wanted to write about that, and then when it was actually being made, Vince Vaughn [Producer] asked me “Do you want to be in it? It’s being made, what do you want to do?” and I knew I was too old to be the MC of the feature and I am too young to be the headliner. So I thought, “To hell with it, I’m just glad it is being made!” So he said, “Why don’t you direct it?” and I had never directed anything before but he said, “Well you never wrote anything before either, but now you did it, and it’s your story, so direct it!” So I said okay. Never contemplating how overwhelming it was, but I am glad I did it, I am glad I was the purveyor of this story, and I’m really proud of it.

GR: Ah, never had any intentions of being a director until it happened.

SB: Exactly, I knew if it ever got made I’d be too old to play a kid in his 20’s, going on the road for the first time, but I wanted to write a film about a kid driving to Las Vegas for his very first time in his 20’s. Not a man driving home from Vegas in his 50’s. Which uhh, could have been me.


GR: How much of this was based on your own life?

SB: Oh the minute Will hits the road in the film, everything that has happened in the movie has happened to me. That’s why you can’t make this stuff up. All the comics that are in it, they’ve said the same three things to me after they screened it. 1) I loved it, 2) It was so authentic, and 3) And you just retriggered horrible memories from the first few years of my comedy career, now I need to go see my therapist again. So I was really happy to hear that.

GR: How did you pick Jimmy Yang for the lead of this film?

SB: (Sighs), Well, I didn’t pick Jimmy Yang, he held me up at gun point, after a missed connection on Craig’s List, he met me in Wal-Mart,

GR: And he said “Gimme Dat Dick!”

SB: That’s right, yeah, “Gimme Dat Diiiick!”. Good call back by the way. [Editor’s note: That is a quote from the movie.]

SB: When you’re casting this, because it was semi-autobiographical, I thought I might as well cast somebody that kind of looks like me, and I didn’t do it for diversity sake, I hate when people do that, I hate when people make it an agenda, it is certainly not that. But there are very few stand up comedians that are Asian, and there are very few stand up comic Asians that are also working actors, so Jimmy was the first one we went to, Jimmy took it and I didn’t have to talk to anyone else after that.

GR: Was there any celebrity that was the inspiration behind Billy G?

SB: Ah yes, there was an inspiration behind Billy G. His name is Billy G, because he was named after Billy Gardell. And most people know Billy Gardell from the show Mike and Molly, I’ve had a lot of mentor’s along the way, and I’ve had a lot of people give me sage advice, and I toured with Billy Gardell, along with brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

[Editor’s Note: This is when my computer froze. I know, in the middle of a probably touching answer. Once my compute restarted, it also decided to do an update and I realized it was a lost cause, but Steve waited for me to get back on Zoom on my phone, and we finished the interview there.]

GR: Okay, one of the things I really appreciate is the is that all of the side characters in this film have personality and a reason for existing, without still taking away from Will’s story. The DJ is mysterious and crazy, but it never gets fully explained. Chad is an interesting comic, the girlfriend is actually supportive the whole time…and then there is Chip. What is up with Chip?

SB: (Laughs) Well, Chip is like the gatekeeper to Will’s dreams. He is the one who ultimately is giving Will a shot by letting him MC at the club, and there are a lot of managers like that who have to book for multiple clubs across the country, so if Will can succeed, it leads to a lot more opportunity. And uhh, he is based on two managers in particular, ones who pushed a lot of boundaries.

GR: You mentioned earlier that all of these things happened to you. So you had the radio interview gone wrong, the hecklers and all of that?

SB: YES! In Raleigh, NC was the story about going to the trailer park with the girl who had a, well, Marine boyfriend. The Radio interview was from LA, and the hecklers was in Dallas.
[Editor’s Note: I hope I got the cities right for that. Damn chicken scratch notes.]

GR: Thank you so much for stopping by to talk Steve, sorry about the tech issues there. The Opening Act opens this weekend at least in The Alamo Drafthouse if not more places.

SB: Thanks for taking time watch and review and give the film some buzz. I appreciate it.

Pauly Shore (Screwball McGee) – Guest House Interview

[Editor’s Note: Wow do I suck! This was a phone interview, and the phone interview didn’t save record. It is the right length, but no sound at all thanks to my phone’s settings. I did write notes during the answers to the questions, but not all of the wonderful detail that he gave, so these answers are going to not be as great or detailed as Screwball McGee requested. ]

Gorgon Reviews: Thank you for this interview! First of all, would you like me to call you Pauly or Mr. Shore or something else?
Pauly Shore: I want you to call me Screwball McGee!

GR: I can do that! Definitely one to remember. Again, thank you for the interview. I want to say that I saw all of the 90’s films a lot growing up, so I am a fan, but clearly my dad is a bigger fan of you, since someone had to buy all those VHS tapes. As soon as I got the interview I called him up to let him know and he is finally proud of me.
Screwball McGee: Sweet, dude.

GR: Here is the question I always ask people right away, what is the first movie you remember seeing in theaters?
SM: Ahhhh, fuck man. Let me think. It was probably the Marx Brothers. My mom would take me and Peter down to the theater, right on Sunset Boulevard. Yeah it was definitely the Marx brother films.

GR: Sorry about the recent passing of your parents by the way. You obviously got your start working in The Comedy Store your parents founded and it is said you used to open for Sam Kinison. Do you think he had the biggest effect on your comedy career? Were there other comics you idolized around then as well?
SM: Yeah for sure Sam, watching him was something incredible and unique, his emotion and energy he brought to the stage. But also at the time Richard Pryor, Eddie murphy, and Jim Carrey.

GR: When you developed “The Weasel” character for your show, was it based on someone in particular or just a fictional version of your self?
SM: Oh it is based a little on everyone, my friends, my parents, Sam, random people I’ve met. The community really brought him out, and I was the only doing something like that at the time, with the unique pauses between words and dialect. But I didn’t go out and say “Oh, this is the Weasel idea” and make him, but it just came about all together. Like sometimes when you are setting up a one person show, you don’t even necessarily know what the name of the show is until you actually make the show.

GR: Do you ever get worried that people will never be able to separate “The Weasel”, from you, the real Screwball McGee?
SM: When you get older and past 50, you don’t really worry about how people see you. Adam Sandler said something similar in a quote [Editor’s note: Which I won’t even pretend to write down, but its you know, similar.] You can be all these different things to so many different people.

GR: I guess I will talk about the movie too. Guest House felt like a more R Rated version of your early 90’s work. Is that how you took it too?
SM: This is actually the first R rated film I have ever done, even though my stand up pretty R Rated.

GR: How did you land the major role in Guest House after so long away from movies?
SM: Actually, they brought me n to be like a police officer for the film, but once the director found out that they had access to me, and after he saw my interview on the Joe Rogan podcast, he wanted instead to get me in the lead spot. So he went around and just asked the whole cast and crew if it was fine and everyone loved it, and it went that way

GR: Final question, which of your old co-stars would win in a fight between Stephen Baldwin, Andy Dick, Sean AStin, or Brendan Fraser?
SM: Oh uhhhh, I think Stephen Baldwin, he is a beast.
GR: 90’s Baldwin or now Baldwin?
SM: Either of them. Both of them. Have you seen him and his family?

GR: Thank you again for chatting with me barely about your new movie and more about your life!
SM: You’re welcome, tell your dad I said “hey. “

Michael Stocker, “Finding Dory” Animation Supervisor: Animation and Technology


When it comes to animation, Michael Stocker has seemingly done it all. His first animation role in a movie was with the 1994 classic The Lion King and from there he moved onto actual animation roles in Hercules, Tarzan, and The Emperor’s New Groove. After a few years, he found himself an animator working on purely 3D movies like The Incredibles and Cars.

When Toy Story 3 came around he was a directing animator and now, with Finding Dory, he is a Supervising Animator, leading the entire film along side David DeVan.

So when we got to sit down and chat with Stocker on the past, present, and future of animation, he had a lot of interesting things to say.

“The rules they used to animate Pinocchio, we all used to animate Dory,” Stocker said. Despite a change in technology, the same rules still apply to making an animated film, technology just makes things easier. “The difference is we are doing it in a computer, we are doing it in a 3D world.”

New technology comes with its pros and cons. “One thing that is easy [with a computer] is that when…fifty people animate Dory, it will still look like Dory. When fifty people draw Dory it will look like fifty different people drew Dory.”

The advancements in technology actually hurt them in a few ways since the release of Finding Nemo in 2003. He compared using new technology to opening a very old Word document on a newer computer: It wouldn’t understand the older data. “We had to go back and rebuild Dory, rebuild Marlin…The challenge was that people loved this world…We had to make sure that our new world matched that exactly.” Despite advancements in technology, they had to match the world aesthetic from 2003 and couldn’t upgrade every component.


Newer technologies did make certain aspects of the film a bit easier to handle. Software they developed a few films back was used extensively in Finding Dory. When they were not sure how to animate or take a current scene they were able to take a pen and just draw freehand what they wanted into the scene. Instead of taking a day to animate it and maybe trashing the whole thing, they could visualize in less than a minute and match the animation to their drawings.

As for the future of animated film? “I’m not sure,” laughed Stocker. “Things are changing so fast.” What he did know is that the challenges in the future for Pixar will drive the technological improvements. It will be a movie by movie basis. He went on to note that with Cars 3 coming down the line, it had a similar issue with Finding Dory, where things had to be rebuilt while maintaining their previous aesthetic.

Stocker was very open about his past in animation and his role in the Finding Dory film. But more importantly, he said his favorite animal was the octopus, and thus was a big component of Hank the Septopus from the film, arguably the best part of the movie. Coming from a family obsessed with the octopus, both in sports and in our child’s nursery, I can say that he clearly is a man with the finest of tastes.