STAND-UP TUESDAYS: Steve Byrne’s Sullivan and Son

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Stand-Up Tuesdays is a weekly comedy spotlight written by the wonderfully talented Angie Frissore. Covering both known and unknown comics, Stand-up Tuesdays is your new source for all things funny. This week, Angie puts a spotlight on Adam Norwest. If you or your comedy troupe would like to be featured on Stand-Up Tuesdays, please email utgjames@gmail.com.

This week in Stand-Up Tuesdays, we take a break from the regular CD/DVD review and instead focus our attention on a comedy vehicle of a different nature, in the brand-new comedy series created by Steve Byrne and Rob Long, “Sullivan and Son”, which can be seen weekly on TBS.

With an exceptionally strong cast that includes stand-up comedians Byrne, Ahmed Ahmed, Roy Wood, Jr., and Owen Benjamin, and executive producer Vince Vaughn, the show highlights Byrne as Steve Sullivan, a New York corporate lawyer who returns home to Pittsburgh for the 60th birthday of his Irish-American dad, Jack (Dan Lauria, “The Wonder Years”), who owns a neighborhood bar along with his wife, Korean-born Ok Cha (Jodi Long, “Beginners”). Tailed by his status-chasing New York girlfriend, Byrne’s character decides to give up his New York life to take over the bar after his father decides to sell it (allowing for the fastest exit of any sitcom character ever as his girlfriend immediately ditches him and goes back to New York).

“It all kind of started with Vince Vaughn, who’s been such a great friend to me the last few years,” Byrne recently told me in an interview. “We’ve known each other for quite some time and he said, ‘Why don’t you develop something for yourself instead of living out of a suitcase – create your own vehicle?’ So I did just that…I met Rob Long and right off the bat loved him, and we started working together and we punched up the foundation I had created with the script; Rob made it a hundred times better. A lot of credit is due to Rob for turning the pilot around.”

While some critics are quick to criticize the show for oftentimes being heavy with racial stereotypes and throw-backs to sitcoms of the 90’s, it’s that type of entertainment nostalgia that pulls me in to “Sullivan and Son” with each episode.  As sitcoms and other televised comedy are forced to compete with the brainless programming of reality TV, it’s almost refreshing to see a show that truly is a nod to some of the more classic series of yesteryear. While show has been called a “Cheers” knock-off by some, the family-based premise of “Sullivan and Son” allows it to stand out on its own.  The decision Byrne’s character makes to leave New York for a more familiar and friendly setting comes directly from Byrne’s own experiences as a road comedian.

“At the time I had written it, I was living out of a suitcase. I didn’t really have much of a personal life at all – just total professional life; total ‘comic that was gone 52 weeks a year,’” Byrne explains. “I said you know, this isn’t what I want to do, and I just decided that a life that matters to me would be feeling at home somewhere, and Pittsburg was always home to me – and being with friends and family, just like the show.”

While “Sullivan and Son” certainly isn’t about to break any new comedy ground, it does offer a solidly entertaining premise and cast that should be taken at face value. And, while TBS doesn’t necessarily have the track record of producing high-quality programming, “Sullivan and Son” is a firm step in the right direction towards good entertainment.

And hey – it’s something other than “The Big Bang Theory”, which in itself is a bonus in my book.

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