It would be really easy for Pauly Shore's standup act at Liquid Laughs to be an exercise in sadness. His acting career very much on hiatus, his fortune gone, his name a punchline, he could have shuffled out onstage like a washed up has-been, desperate for attention from an audience as far down the D-list as he is. He could have danced like a circus monkey before losing the audience with some sort of Michael Richards-esque blunder.
But that didn't happen.
Though Shore's persona and history of stardom plays a major role in his act, rather than banking on it to carry water, he used it as a piece of common knowledge to poke fun at himself with new material.
He talked about how he can't get acting roles because he is too recognizable, about how even in porn, where his face wouldn't be shown, his voice would still be recognized.
"You think I'm bitter that Nick Cage is making millions? Of course I am," Shore cracked. Then he instructed a woman in the front row to write that one down so he'd remember it for later.
In the hands of anyone else, it might have seemed bitter. But Shore's lighthearted doofusness gave his lamentations a whimsical tone, a WTF for for the ages.
"No one ever thought they'd heard Pauly Shore say 'when I was your age,'" he said.
Shore also got into his personal history, about working out in the same gym as Fabio, about being in the west Hollywood Cub Scouts and growing up in a comedy club—somehow he always managed to end up locked in the walk-in freezer.
Shore's No. 1 topic may be himself, but the self-awareness that comes with later years of an artist's career tempered the ego. Tragedy plus time equals comedy. Shore has had the time for his fall from stardom to become funny. Whether it is enough to sustain a new rise is questionable, but for a night it works.
It could have been terrible. It wasn't. Instead, it was hilarious.
Shore will perform two more shows at Liquid Laughs tonight at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Tickets are $25.