Steve Byrne is a busy comedian. Besides being one of the best working comedians today, he’s also been hard at work on his hit TBS show, Sullivan & Son, a sitcom loosely based on his life, whose 3rd season premieres next month. Continuing the rule of thirds, Byrne also just released a new stand-up special, Champion which is available on Netflix and for purchase. We caught up with Byrne to talk about all the things he has going on in his life.
To begin, congrats on the success of Sullivan & Son. It seems like you all are a really close knit group. What is it like working in that type of environment?
It’s literally best case scenario. To work with three other great stand-ups that are also your pals, to the cast & crew, where everyone comes to work every day with a great attitude and then to top it all off with working with great pals like Vince Vaughn and Peter Billingsley, every day I work on that set is an absolute treat. We all have a great time working on the show. The thing I appreciate most is that from craft services, security, PA’s all the way up to producers and Vince, everyone cares. When everyone cares about the show, the show is only that much better. It’s been an incredible experience as well as an education. I’m loving every second of it and I hope to continue to be behind the bar for many more years to come. Professionally, it’s the best experience I’ve had in my years as an entertainer and I thank Pete, Vince, and TBS for that.
You also just released your third stand-up special, Champion. What have you learned during the creative process for this special as opposed to the last two?
The deeper you dig, the more revealing you are, the more the material will resonate with your audience. It takes time to develop your voice and it takes time to find out who’s going to gravitate towards your comedy, but I’ve had a blast every step of the way with this special. It’s the hardest I’ve worked on the material and I feel the jokes get better and better. I started off with jokes about Mac & Cheese and now I’m talking about the evolution of AIDS monkeys. It’s been an odd journey but to take things you witness in everyday life and peel back the layers of the onion and try to find some semblance of humor in it, that isn’t mean, is not only challenging but a lot of fun. It’s a welcomed journey. It took a lot longer to write this special, but I am damn proud of it and it is literally a graduation of failures I’ve had on stage the last 2-3 years.
What does the word “Champion” mean to you?
Bottom line, I wanted to name the special after a bit I was proud of. The “Champion” bit is about marriage and as much as a few people say in reviews I’ve seen, I hate women or I hate relationships, that’s not the case. Relationships are hard and they are wonderful. I couldn’t be happier in my marriage. That’s why the line, “I love you,” is in there, but sometimes you’ve got to find a win in any situation to say, “Hey, this can be fun too,” and that’s where the evolution of the joke came from. It sums up marriage to me in a very real and fun way. I hope people can understand that. I have always tried to be positive in my stand-up. Always. Champion represents that to me. I really love that joke and that’s why I named the special it.
You have some pretty biting material in your stand-up. Do you have any interesting stories of people coming up to you angry after shows?
Not really. I know that there are absolutely folks that aren’t going to like my stand-up. That’s fine. I am a big boy. Doing this for 15 years, you’re never gonna get everyone. My bottom line is I’ve just got to try to do my best. That means doing what makes me laugh, talking about what I’m passionate about at the time and try to express that in a way that I enjoy conveying in a humorous way. I am never out to piss anyone off or stir the pot. I am an entertainer and I really take that as a badge of honor. If I go after a group, I make sure to go after all groups. I will say after this last special, I am done with racial material. I’ve had my fill. I want to move on to something else. A new challenge. It was fun to explore as a mix. Being Korean and Irish gave me a different perspective that I tried to delve into and I had a blast doing it, but I did it and now I want a new path. Can’t wait!!!
What was the decision process like for deciding to release your special on Netflix?
Netflix is the new frontier of how comedy and TV is seen and I couldn’t be more excited. Before Netflix, Comedy Central was the only platform a comedian could be seen in and get national exposure. The problem with that is that you had to fit into Comedy Central’s very defined perception of what funny is to their network. That is no longer the case and I literally couldn’t be happier. Netflix is a very indiscriminate platform to be discovered or seen as a comedian. It will give many comics a shot to be noticed. Viewing patterns and TV have changed dramatically in the last 5 years and Netflix is a big part of that. I couldn’t be happier to be on there. Now I don’t have to tell folks to tune in July 23rd at midnight on a channel! Now I can just say, it’s on Netflix, check ‘er out!!!
Even though you’re a successful actor and television creator, you still go out on tour with stand-up. What makes you keep coming back to the medium?
Stand-up is what I did before the show and stand-up is what I’ll do after the show. I’ve always wanted to be judged by my body of work as a stand-up and I feel like I am just getting started. I still got some miles to go before I make my mark, but I’ve always known it’s a very long road. I’m excited and to be very honest, working with Roy Wood Jr. and Owen Benjamin has made me a better comedian. Both of those guys are constantly writing. They’re very creative and very underrated comedians. I love touring with them. They push me to write. They push me to be better and I appreciate them as comedians and I’m very fortunate to hit the road with them. I’ve also been binge watching a ton of hour specials on Netflix. It’s really made me proud to be a comic and geared up to get back out there and work on some new stuff. Love Tom Rhodes’ new special, John Mulaney, Kathleen Madigan, Sebastian Maniscalco, and so many others. All these great acts have made me want to do the best I can after seeing them do theirs!
What is the worst green room food you’ve had at a comedy club?
It’s all the same. If you want to eat like an 8th grader the rest of your life, become a comedian.
Besides the new album, what’s next for Steve Byrne?
Touring. Writing a new hour. Enjoying season three of Sullivan & Son. Spending time with my family and friends. Just honestly accepting every second of these moments as blessings in my life. I worked my ass off for 15 years as a stand-up comedian and I have a show that’s going into its 3rd season which is a huge accomplishment. I don’t take it for granted. I smile every day I get to go to work and will just try to be aware and live in the present every second I get to do it. All that and develop a cocaine habit that will take it all away.
We’d like to thank Steve Byrne for chatting with us. Season 3 of Sullivan & Son premieres on TBS on June 24th. Steve’s new stand-up special, Champion just hit stores. Pick it up on iTunes and visit his website or follow him on Twitter @SteveByrneLive for more info.