Some comedians toil in obscurity for years, if not decades, hoping to get their big break. But Steve Byrne’s fame as a comedian has exploded in just a short amount of time. The MySpace phenom – turned – Comedy Central regular has been featured on Comedy Central Presents and even had his own 2008 special called Steve Byrne: Happy Hour. His other TV credits include: The Middle, The Real Wedding Crashers, and The Chapelle Show. No stranger to feature films either, he has starred alongside Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, and Jeremy Piven in such movies as Couples Retreat, Four Christmases, and The Goods: The Don Ready Story. He’s appeared on The Tonight Show, The Late Late Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and even opened for Kanye West, Mariah Carey, and Modest Mouse. Byrne managed to take some time out of his busy tour schedule to call us from Phoenix and crack a few jokes.
SlifeGoesOn: Did you know that there are four guys named Steve Byrne on IMDB?
Byrne: I did not!
SlifeGoesOn: There’s a composer, a stunt man, a comedian, and a makeup artist.
Byrne: It sounds like the beginning of a dirty joke!
SlifeGoesOn: Well, I’m guessing you’re not the makeup artist?
Byrne: Ha! Definitely not the makeup artist!
SlifeGoesOn: Well, there is a thread on IMDB where your sexuality is hotly debated.
Byrne: I guess you know you’ve made it when the gay rumors start!
SlifeGoesOn: Ha! Don’t worry. Someone named “DarthShaggy” staunchly defends your prowess with the ladies by writing, “HELL NO! You should see the girls this guy gets! 10′s!”
SlifeGoesOn: Is this true? Are they really 10′s?
Byrne: Well, I’ve been with the same girlfriend for three years, and I think she’d kill me if I didn’t describe her as a 10, which she is!
SlifeGoesOn: So, when did you really know that you’d “made it?”
Byrne: When they made an action figure of me? (laughs) No, honestly I don’t think that I’ve made it yet. Not by far!
SlifeGoesOn: So, you hail from the glamorous stomping grounds of Pittsburgh?
Byrne: I don’t mean to brag, but yes. It’s quite the hot spot! Actually, it has a strong, blue collar mentality which has really influenced my comedy.
SlifeGoesOn: I understand than your mother is Korean, and your father is Irish. So does that make you Korish? Or Irean?
Byrne: (laughs) I see a lot of other comedians like George Lopez or Carlos Mencia who use their ethnicity as the basis of their acts, but I never wanted to be pegged as one thing. I want to be inclusive rather than exclusive. I’m constantly asking, who am I? And so racial identity in America is a huge basis of my new special.
SlifeGoesOn: Growing up, did you always want to be a comedian?
Byrne: I remember as a kid I was always goofing off in class to make friends, and one day my teacher Mr. Munhall said to me, “Why don’t you just run off and join the circus?” And I remember thinking to myself that wouldn’t be so bad!
Byrne: It was always my dream growing up to be a performer of some kind, so I did theater in college. But I was never into stand-up. I only did it on a whim when I went to New York, but then I fell in love with it.
SlifeGoesOn: How would you describe your style of comedy?
Byrne: I think a lot of my older stuff was more observational. And I realized that I didn’t stand out from anyone because I wasn’t saying anything about myself for people to connect with. I wasn’t taking risks. So my new show is a lot more personal, you know. I can’t tell ass-punching jokes forever!
SlifeGoesOn: You can’t?! Cuz my grandpa does!
Byrne: (laughs) Well, I guess you could say I’m maturing!
SlifeGoesOn: What comedians do you look up to?
Byrne: I don’t know if I have any comedy idols, per se, but I do kinda love Dean Martin! For some reason, I just think he’s one of the coolest guys in the world!
SlifeGoesOn: What has been your most surreal “Hollywood” moment?
Byrne: I guess it would be when I got to introduce Martin Lawrence at The Comedy Store. I used to work at a video rental place in college, and I remember when his “He So Crazy” video came out. I watched it, like, 30 times in three weeks! So I thought it was really cool to introduce someone that I’d enjoyed so much back in the day.
SlifeGoesOn: What late night hosts have you enjoyed working with?
Byrne: I was really young and green when I did Kimmel, but he’s a risk taker and I think he’s one of the best guys out there. Leno has by far been the most supportive though. He’s extremely generous!
SlifeGoesOn: Of all the actors you’ve worked with, who is your favorite?
Byrne: I would have to say Vince Vaughn, hands down! I love the guy! He was doing The Wild West Comedy Show, and he called me to fill in when someone got sick, and we hit it off. He even took me with him to the Summer Olympics in China! He’s been an enormous influence on me personally and professionally, and I consider him a best friend.
SlifeGoesOn: Aside from your new comedy special, The Byrne Identity, (July 25 at 10pm on Comedy Central) what else are you up to this summer?
Byrne: Well, I’ll be performing at a show in Chicago with Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, and my buddy Bill Burr. Then I’m shooting a movie with Vince and Ron Howard called What You Don’t Know. In addition to touring, I’m also working on a third comedy special, and I’m writing a TV pilot.
SlifeGoesOn: Wow! Busy bee! What would you be doing today if you weren’t a stand-up comedian?
Byrne: Hmm. I honestly don’t know! I couldn’t fathom doing anything else. I’m as lazy as they come! But for whatever reason, this just lit a spark under me. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!