YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OE THE STRANGE case of the boy raised by wolves. Pauly Shore’s case is stranger. “I had comics raise me,” says the 21-year-old MTV veejay, whose mom, Mitzi, runs Los Angeles’s famous Comedy Store and whose dad is veteran nightclub comic Sammy Shore. “It’s like, four hung-over comics would take me to my Little League games. They’d be up there in the bleachers, like tryin’ to pick up on the moms. And I’d be like, ‘Watch me, man. You took me to the game, you know?’ ”
Chilling story, isn’t it? Or, as Pauly might say, chillin’, you know? After all, he’s turned out to be much more successful than The Jungle Books’ Mowgli, and scarcely less wild. With his shoulder-length hair, an expression that suggests a never-lifting mental haze and a vocabulary (see box, p. 68) that’s 100 percent southern Californian dude (“totally buff!” is the ultimate praise), he’s part Jim Morrison, part Pee-wee Herman—and the newest hero for kids at home and on campuses, where he performs his zonked brand of stand-up in sold-out concerts.
On MTV’s video show Totally Pauly, he introduces the songs and takes weird field trips. “Like when we went to that pig farm in Cosmo, Minn., it was the heaviest smell—I almost puked,” says Shore, who’s also known as the Weasel—for a droning, Valley Boy delivery that hang glides from syllable to syllable (“bummer,” for example, would be “buh-[pause]-mer”). But, pigs aside, he can’t complain. “I get paid for screwing around, you know what I mean?”
Getting paid for screwing around isn’t far removed from what his parents do. His dad’s make-’em-laugh career path included opening for Elvis Presley at the Las Vegas Hilton back in the early ’70s. Stand-up was not always a kingly existence, though, which was why Sammy and Mitzi started the Comedy Store in 1972. “It was originally for my dad to work out, when he wasn’t on the road,” he says. “It was just a little shackety place.”
What didn’t work out was his parents’ marriage. They divorced in 1974, with Mom getting custody of the four kids (three sons and a daughter) and of the Comedy Store. While Sammy continued on the stand-up circuit, Mitzi, now 58, built the Store into one of the West Coast’s premier proving grounds for new stand-up talent. Over the years, the budding laughmeisters have included David Letterman, Jay Leno and Roseanne Barr. “And my mom used to have comedians over all the time,” says Pauly, who still lives with Mitzi in a rambling 20-room house above Sunset Strip. “You know, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Richard Belzer…Guys would be downstairs, they’d be laughing. And when I’d wake up to go to school, they’d still be downstairs.”
“The comics were brother figures for him,” says his mom. The biggest brother of them all was the splenetic, wide-beamed Sam Kinison, who started out as a doorman at the Comedy Store’s Westwood branch (since closed; there is still a branch in La Jolla, Calif.). “I used to feed him,” says Pauly, who worked as a short-order cook at the club. “He had no money.” The burgers Shore cooked for Kinison were no joke. “They were good,” says Kinison, “really generous.”
Like burger, like chef. “Pauly still has a softness and a likability,” says his mom. And—as Totally Pauly fans can attest—a sort of in-your-face quality. “When Pauly was about 10,” says Comedy Store alumnus Howie (St. Elsewhere) Mandel, “I remember there was this long line outside the Comedy Store, and he was out there break dancing.”
By 12th grade at Beverly Hills High, Shore had made up his mind that he wanted to get into comedy in the worst way. And the worst way (ba dum dum) was how he did it, his mom recalls. “In the beginning, he worked too dirty,” says Mitzi, who was unimpressed by her son’s early routines. “It was a turnoff to me.” Kinison, though, was willing to give his former chef a chance and hired him as his opening act in 1988. “Pauly was great,” he says. Then last year, a summer veejay stint for MTV led to Totally Pauly.
As for personally Pauly, he doesn’t have time for much more than surfing and the occasional dance lesson. And romantically, the Weasel has yet to find the dream girl—Lisa, or “Leeeeeee-[pause]-zaaaa”—he always mentions, lustfully, in his act. There actually was a dream girl, Pauly confesses. They met two years ago (she was in the audience at the Comedy Store) and dated 11 months. “I never opened up my heart to anyone until her,” he says. But, like, love stinks. “I said, ‘Here’s my heart—take it.’ And she kinda chewed it up and spat it out.”
Still, nothing can spoil Pauly’s smile-button sense of goodwill. “I’m into this love thing,” he rhapsodizes, “and everyone’s equal. I’m not just pop, I’m not just rock. I’m everyone.” Even Gandhi was never this buff.
DORIS BACON in Los Angeles