Steve Byrne Reopens The Bar For Second Season Of 'Sullivan & Son'
June 13th, 2013 12:05pm EDT
TBS's Sullivan & Son has become a comfortable place to visit for TV audiences on Thursday nights. It's familiar enough for audiences to grasp, is willing to push the envelope enough to feel fresh, and the cast have bent over backwards to make it feel like a real hangout. As the bar comedy serves up its second season, BFTV reconnected with star-writer-producer Steve Byrne between stand-up comedy gigs to ask him how his charming idea for a TV show emerged into the good time it is today.
"I think what makes any show successful is any time it has its own voice and it doesn't sound like anything else," explained the comedian, who stars as Steve Sullivan, the former corporate attorney turned Pittsburgh bar operator. "And I think that we definitely cornered the market, in not being so politically correct and we're not a cartoon. We're actually real people speaking these lines."
Just last July, Steve was entirely new to the business of television, and aiming to make that not uncommon but fairly elusive transition from stand-up comic to TV personality. Flash forward to eleven months later, and he's starting to hone in on what makes his show unique. "The evolution of it all is learning what worked and what didn't work in the first season," he explained. "As the season went on, we found our strengths and weaknesses, and I think (it's) a more defined and streamlined show in the second season."
Some of those strengths that will be back in the second season include "More Carol [Christine Ebersole] and Owen [Owen Benjamin] interactions. I think it's the most uncomfortable mother and son relationship I've ever seen on television," he laughed. "More great one-liners from Ok Cha [Jodi Long] and Hank [Brian Doyle-Murray]."
What's new includes an impressive lineup of guest stars. In tonight's premiere episode, you'll see The Hangover and Community star Ken Jeong (pictured above left, with Byrne) playing a drunk Korean. He's joined by another familiar face, Monday Mornings lead Keong Sim, whom Steve particularly praised. "When we needed to cast a bar full of Asian doctors, I immediately thought of Keong," he said. "He's just an awesome guy. One of the nicest guys in the world, too." Later on, you'll see Mike & Molly's Billy Gardell return, and The Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar will also visit the bar.
If Steve has figured out how to make a good TV show, one thing he hasn't yet adjusted to is being the show's star and producer. "Not really," he admitted, displaying the total lack of ego that's helped to make him successful. "I'm used to being a stand-up comic. I'm still giddy about going to work. I hope that never goes away and I don't think it ever will."
While he doesn't necessarily want to be the center of attention, he's most definitely happy that he listened to his longtime friend (and Sullivan & Son executive producer) Vince Vaughn, and took the leap into television. "It's the time of my life," Steve enthused. "It all starts with Vince. He's been so supportive of my career over the years. People ask about his involvement all the time. Each and every episode, he's always chiming in."
He's most proud of "just the fact that we're on the air. I've had so many friends that have had (television) deals," he continued, adding that bringing his show back for season two "the biggest testament to the talent involved, and how hard we work on the show, and how hard we work on promoting it. I'd love to do this as long as I can."
More than anything, that effort is what makes Sullivan & Son stand out. With Steve leading the way, the cast has gone out of their way to make the home audience feel like part of the bar family. They give us a chance to get to know them, laugh with them, and share in their passion for the show. For the second straight year, the four comedians in the ensemble - Steve, Owen Benjamin, Ahmed Ahmed and Roy Wood Jr. - are hitting the road for a comedy club tour, returning to their roots while giving the TV audience a chance to connect with them in that way. (You can view tour dates and get tickets here.)
Steve also told us that he and other members of the cast will be live-tweeting, and unlike with most other shows, it won't be just once or twice. "We'll be live-tweeting during each episode," he said. "That's something we really look forward to, interacting with the fans. It's been a lot of fun to see how people view the show, how they enjoy the show, and how they quote the show on Twitter." With that kind of transparency, it gives the audience a sense of not just who Steve Sullivan and his regulars are, but who Steve Byrne and his colleagues are, too. It's like you could easily amble up to the bar yourself.
So how close is Steve Byrne to his fictional counterpart? "I think I'm pretty in step with Steve Sullivan," he said. "The original pilot was based on what I was going through at the time in my life when I wrote [it], prior to [showrunner] Rob Long stepping in and making it a hundred times funnier. I just toured the country fifty weeks a year, living out of a suitcase, and I had a great professional life but no personal life. And I ultimately wanted to have a life that matters. I wanted to be around friends and family. I wanted to have a place that was home to me, because home was just hotel rooms and eight ounce bottles of shampoo. That was really the core of it.
"And I do believe that I try to be guided by the moral compass that was instilled in my brain and my heart by my father when I was younger and all through my teens and everything. He's been somebody I still call for advice. So I think I have a pretty good moral compass.So I think that Steve Sullivan and Steve Byrne are pretty much in step. I'm not sure that I'm as patient as he is with friends or family but we're pretty much in step with each other."
That similarity isn't surprising. If Steve Sullivan is the guy you want to see behind the bar on Thursday night, that's because Steve Byrne is such a genuine, hardworking person, too. Here's a man we'd all be lucky to sit down and share a drink with.
The second season of Sullivan & Son kicks off tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on TBS. You can also follow Steve on Twitter (@SteveByrneLive), and he'll be live-tweeting tonight's premiere, too. If you haven't yet, make sure you pay a visit to Sullivan & Son.
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: TBS