Korean-Irish comedian Steve Bryne, 38, has appeared in hit movies including The Dilemma, Couples Retreat, and Four Christmases, and The Goods: The Don Ready Story and on television shows such as Jimmy Kimmel Live, NBC’s The Tonight Show, CBS’s The Late Show, and Chapelle’s Show. Currently, he is the star of TBS’s Sullivan & Son, which he co-created. Season 2 of the show premieres June 13 at 10pm/9pm c.
Byrne was born in Freehold, New Jersey and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Byrne pays tribute to both sides of his heritage through his comedy and in his current role as Steve Sullivan, a corporate attorney who visits his Irish father and Korean mother as they are preparing to sell their bar to retire and to their surprise decides to take over and run the establishment.
AsianWeek.com had a chance to briefly speak to Bryne.
Who are your favorite comedians?
Bill Burr, I’ve known him for some time in New York. What he does is great, it’s really truthful and honest. I also love Neal Brennan, he co-created Chappelle’s Show [and] Joe DeRosa.
And definitely the guys I met in Sullivan & Son. And the reason why I wrote the original script – if I was somebody at home with a TV remote, I’d never think in a million years to cast all three of them but that’s a testament to TBS and how great of a channel they are.
The article “Paper Tigers” by Wesley Yang was published by New York magazine back in ’11 and alluded to the idea that Asians won’t be respected or fulfill their full potential in the U.S. because traditional Asian social values may not mesh well with the unspoken social rules here in the States – what do you think about that?
Look at the end of the day I think that’s stupid, because you’ve got to appreciate where you’ve come from. No matter who you are, your parents are your parents and whatever their ideals and their history, no matter what it’s kind of ingrained in your bloodstream so whether you like it or not it’s there.
My mom’s Korean, my dad’s Irish. I’m proud of the heritage of each. I gave up a life of being a corporate attorney and I achieved that goal of being a corporate attorney because my Korean mother pushed me so hard to do that. That’s the basis of the show, it’s finding a happy medium in your personal life and your professional life. Making money while being happy doing it, you don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer to achieve that.
Why is there a lack of Asians actors in Hollywood?
Part of it is demographics, and I talk about it in my second hour special The Byrne Identity. Asians are 4% of the [U.S] population, so where is Hollywood’s going to back a movie? Who’s going to buy those tickets? Then the challenge is, coming out with a good enough story so people will come out and see it. I think Asians should take it upon themselves to create, write, produce, direct, and star in their own vehicles.
I think you’ll be surprised what happens in the next 10-15 years too because now you’re seeing Asians on MTV in these dance troupes just killing it. There’s this cocoon of [Asians] being seen as just hardworking nerds and that cocoon is gonna burst open and you’re going to see that Asian kids are just as cool and are being influenced by the same things that every other American kid is. So I think there definitely is a pendulum swing.
I mean you look at Harold and Kumar, you look at John Cho’s career, he’s been doing a lot. Look at Ken Jeong, this guy’s an Asian lead. He’s like Samuel L. Jackson, he’s in everything and he kills it and he’s hilarious. I think there is definitely a culture change and I think if I can have a small part in helping that pendulum swing the other way then I’m happy to do it. I’m proud of it too and I’m really proud of our show and what we’ve accomplished.
Official Website: http://www.stevebyrnelive.com/