TBS may be onto something in adding Sullivan & Son to its programming lineup. Certainly, a comedic television series about a Korean-Irish corporate lawyer who leaves his job to take over his father’s bar in Pittsburgh has the potential to live up to the cable network’s tagline of “Very Funny.” Starring veteran stand-up comedian Steve Byrne, who is of Korean-Irish decent, the show, which is executive produced by Vince Vaughn, among others, debuted on July 19.
Comparisons to Cheers and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia abound, what with Sullivan & Son set in a popular bar of a blue-collar town and home to several local regulars. Though the comparisons are high praise, Vaughn and Byrne explain to Buzzine how Sullivan & Son not only stands out from other comedy series, but is a watershed of many issues that hit home today.
Parimal M. Rohit: Vince, what was it that motivated you to want to work with Steve Byrne?
Vince Vaughn: I liked his character. He’s Korean and Irish, [and] also a terrific stand-up. As he was sort of getting into acting, there weren’t a lot of roles for Korean-Irish guys to play. So I sort of encouraged him to come up with the concept … instead of waiting for that role to come around.
PMR: How does this show both relate to and distinguish itself from other bar-set shows, such as Cheers and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia?
VV: What’s different with the bar here is that other shows, although similarities in locations and all of those kinds of things … this neighborhood is pretty different from other neighborhoods we have seen in the past. Everyone is from very different backgrounds. This is a kind of bar that touches a bunch of different areas. The bar works very much like a 2012 bar in a blue-collar neighborhood and made up of people from different backgrounds. That being said, I think that [at this bar, they] are trying to find happiness or [find] places to... [get into] relationships. I think those things are pretty similar to what the other shows have.
PMR: Can we expect a guest appearance from you on the show?
VV: I can neither confirm nor deny that at this point.
PMR: Steve, you have done stand-up comedy for more than a decade. What is the transition like from stand-up to starring your own series? Is this a bit of a dream for you?
Steve Byrne: The first night I did [stand-up], I said to myself offstage, "I don’t care if I’ll never make a dime doing this, but this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life." That’s all I cared about. Vince has always been so kind and supportive with my career and being a great friend. He was so encouraging of me to create a vehicle for myself that, at the time that I wrote it, I was giving everything I had into my professional life. I really didn’t have a personal life. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t have anyone to share all these great accolades with. That was kind of the basis of the show. It’s pursuing something that’s important or that matters to you. I always remembered being back in Pittsburgh, being happy, being around my friends, and being with my family. That’s kind of where I pictured going back home and happily spending time with my friends and family. That’s kind of how I visualized it when I was dreaming of doing the show.
PMR: Steve, were you at all inspired by Cheers? Would you call Sullivan & Son a modern day version of the Ted Danson classic?
SB: The only comparison I think that it really has with Cheers is that it takes place in a bar. I mean, you have Married With Children, All in the Family, The Cosby Show, Home Improvement; there’s a living room, there’s a couch in the middle, but that doesn’t mean they are all the same kind of shows. So I think once people tune in and they see the characters that we have on the show, the language that the characters are speaking, the scenarios that these characters get themselves into, it’s completely different than Cheers. We’re not a broadcast show, either. We’re a cable show. We can push the envelope a little further and get a little edgier.
VV: I think Steve and the dynamic with him taking over the bar and having an immigrant mother and father is a very different dynamic than what’s been explored.
PMR: Vince, does this mean we’ll be seeing more of you producing for television in the future?
VV: I have a bunch of different projects that I’ve kind of been working on and doing. For me … I enjoyed [Steve] as a standup, I like him quite a bit as a person, as well. So this was a fun one for me … to be supportive of and really kind of support the story he wanted to tell.
PMR: Steve, how much of this show mirror your real life?
SB: There’s going to be some people that say, oh, [my mother on the show] is the stereotypical Asian mother who speaks in an accent. Well, my mother came over from Korea and she does have an accent, and she grew up very, very poor. So she always had the mentality of all of our grandparents who grew up during the Great Depression where they really value pocket change. My mom really has that mentality. And my father is really an outgoing Irish. He’s really outgoing, loves storytelling, loves having a good laugh. They really are like my parents. But as the show goes on and the scenarios get a little crazier, they become caricatures of my parents.
Also starring Dan Lauria, Jodi Long, Owen Benjamin, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Christine Erbsole, ‘Sullivan & Son’ is now airing Thursday nights on TBS.