TV & Film

'Sullivan & Son': Vince Vaughn, Steve Byrne Talks New TBS Comedy

Comedian Steve Byrne has been spending quite a bit of time in a not-so-swanky bar in Pittsburgh, PA on his new TBS show "Sullivan & Son," with Vince Vaughn doing the behind-the-scenes legwork as executive producer.

The pair spoke with HuffPost via phone to discuss their new series, Byrne's difficulty landing roles as a Korean-American and Vaughn's new film "The Watch."

Steve, what's it like playing a character who's loosely based on your life?
Byrne: It's been a lot of fun. The biggest transition for me is going from doing a standup where you can be as outlandish or crazy as you want to such a structured environment. You have to stick to the script!

Most stars don't have much of a say in what their characters are up to, but as one of the writers of "Sullivan & Son," you must have a lot control over it. What's that like? Do you find yourself abusing it?
[Laughs]. Well, I try not to! You always try to make sure that whatever's in the script is on point with the storyline and stay true to whatever point we're trying to make. Even if it's a great joke, if it doesn't stay on track with what we're trying to convey in the story, we have to lose it.

You had a small smart part in 2009's "Couple's Retreat" with Vince Vaughn.
I'm great if you put the DVD in, click on bonus features, and scroll down six or seven scenes. You might see me for a second there!

Vaughn: Steve's been a friend of mine for a long time, and he's also a really funny comedian. So whenever there have been parts for people in movies, I ask him to come in and do a couple lines. Plus, we get a chance to hang out. ["Sullivan & Son"] is really about encouraging Steve, because there aren't a lot of parts for Korean and Irish guys out there. I said, "I think it would be great if you could come up with your own idea of something you're passionate about -- a story you want to tell versus waiting around for a part that would fit you." Steve writes the show based on some of his life experiences, but it's clearly exaggerated for comedy. His father is a bar owner, and his mother is a first generation Korean and a very strong woman in all the best ways. It's sort of that dynamic of having one parent who's a first generation immigrant encouraging you to achieve in a corporate route or a safer route, and another who's a little more laid back and a little more casual. Steve balances both of those parts and finds his own journey and what's right for him in his life.

Byrne: I was going to say the exact same thing, so it's perfect the way he explained it.

Vince, I've always thought of you as a movie guy. What got you interested in TV and producing?
Vaughn: For me, it was really being friends with Steve and liking his standup. He's been one of the most popular standups out there for a while now. His specials always do really well, and he's always in demand ... It was a chance to work with Steve as a friend, but also with someone I really believe in as a talent.

Tell me a little bit about what producing "Sullivan & Son" has been like.
Vaughn: We put together a really good team and it's been really fun. I hadn't produced a lot of sitcoms before, and the fun part for me was putting together a cast, and TBS was a great place because they were really collaborative in working with us. I loved taking other standups like Ahmed Ahmed, he's Egyptian and a good a friend of mine, and he's suffered from the same thing Steve has where there just haven't been a ton of roles for him. The fun was really finding these great actors like Dan Lauria, Christine Ebersole, Jodi Long and Brian Doyle-Murray. We've got a lot of terrific actors to round out the cast. It's great seeing these standups who are naturally talented guys and then surrounding them with terrific actors. It made for a nice blend. One really benefited from the other's skill set.

I feel like your career's taken a tamer turn in recent years -- you've even done a few Christmas movies. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Well, I'm back to doing a lot of R-rated movies now. I didn't want to repeat myself too much. I'd done "Old School" and "Wedding Crashers" ... really, I guess, starting with "Swingers." But the movie I have coming out now, "The Watch," starring Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, and Richard Ayoade ... [is] a really fun movie. It's rated R. And then I'm working with Owen Wilson on a movie called "The Internship" where Owen and I lose our jobs and become interns at Google. We get free food, we get to play ping pong and take naps ... We find a way to get into the intern program and try to get a job there. It's fun to go back and do some R-rated comedies again. I feel like as you get older, the roles you get change, and you don't always want to do the same tone over and over again. What's been really fun about this TV show is how edgy it is. It's really reflective of our group of friends. You have guys of a bunch of different nationalities who are all friends, and I think in the comedy world, that's always kind of been the case. In real life, everyone kind of teases and picks on each other. There's always a real friendship here. And it's fun to have this bar setting where everyone's so diverse, and to joke and tease each other. You can tell there's a real friendship and authenticity as a result of it.

Does the fact that you're all friends move the creative process along?
I've felt that way. It's definitely been a collaborative effort, and a lot of bouncing ideas off each other. Vince is somebody who could literally just stamp his name on something and collect checks, but he's been so invested in it. He's been there for all the tapings and has definitely given his input in the script, so it's been great working with him. It's a great team. There's true chemistry on the set. When we break for lunch or dinner, nobody's darting off to their dressing room. Everyone sits around family style and eats, and it's just been such a fun environment to be a part of.

Vaughn: It's only the first year!

Can you give me any hints about where the show is going?
One of the fun aspects coming up focuses on Carol (Christine Ebersole), who's a bar fly, and her son Owen (Owen Benjamin). They become each other's wingmen and treat the bar like their hunting ground. I've never seen a relationship like that before, where a mother and son are high-fiving each other over prospects at a bar. So that's one angle we're going, and it's just one of many situations and scenarios that are created in that bar that make me laugh out loud.

What kind of audience do you see "Sullivan & Son" attracting?
It's funny, because if a show is grounded in any sort of truth it appeals to a wide range of audiences. I think that's what will happen here. You have a bunch of different age ranges of characters coming together, and it's somewhat reflective of what our lives are. You have people of different ages in your life and people of different backgrounds, and the bar becomes a great place for those characters to meet. For anyones who likes comedy and stuff coming out of interpersonal relations or conflicts, I think people will find some comedy in it.

"Sullivan & Son" airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.

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