Sullivan & Son’s Steve Byrne on Leaving Stand-Up, Cheers Comparisons and Oasis
Despite the fact that they work on the set of a (fake) bar, the cast of TBS' new comedy, Sullivan & Son know to keep things professional. But after closing time, all bets are off. Especially if Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger" comes on the jukebox.
"We did this DJ junket last weekend, and we all met at this restaurant. I asked the DJ to play it, and myself and the rest of the cast stood around this fountain and sang that song. [Co-star] Owen Benjamin ended up jumping into the fountain and splashing everybody," co-creator, producer and star Steve Byrne tells TVGuide.com. "That's when the booze was kicking in."
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Such is life working on a show set at a local Pittsburgh bar and executive-produced by one of the longtime producers of Cheers. In the series, premiering on Thursday at 10/9c on TBS, Byrne plays a fancy schmancy New York corporate attorney also named Steve, who suddenly decides to ditch his recent promotion at an investment bank so that he can move back home and run his dad's bar, aptly named Sullivan & Son. "The actual idea for the show was really reflective of where my life was at the time because as a comic, I really lived out of a suitcase for almost 15 years. I had no personal life," Byrne says. "I thought of all the years that I had been missing out on and I thought, 'What is really the point of success if you don't have anybody to share it?' Family, friends — that's what matters."
However, Byrne admits it was the suggestion of a famous friend that opened the door for Sullivan & Son. "I was coming back to Los Angeles Mondays and Tuesday, and the auditions were kind of sparse. Being friends with Vince Vaughn, he just said, 'Why don't you create something for yourself?'" Byrne says of Vaughn, who executive-produces the series. "I never would have tried to write anything without Vince planting that seed in my head."
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After years of hitting the bar scene after his stand-up act ("I wake up the next day with a pounding head and I look at the receipt, and say 'I spent how much?'") centering the show around a bar only seemed natural. But despite the show's setting and the name of Cheers executive producer Rob Long on the call sheet, the similarities end there. "It's almost the same as comparing All in the Family to Family Matters to Married... With Children," Byrne says. "There's a living room and a couch in the middle." The show is actually much closer to a certain 1946 movie classic. "It's like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, but if George Bailey got to go on the train at the beginning and leave town and then he gets to come back," he says. "Steve got the opportunity to leave home and he realizes how great he had it back home."
For fictional Steve, home includes his dad (The Wonder Years' Dan Lauria), his mom (Eli Stone's Jodi Long), his childhood crush (Valerie Azlynn) and his three best friends, played by real-life stand-up comics Roy Wood Jr., Ahmed Ahmed and Benjamin. "It's not a destination spot. It's where people end up," he says of the bar. "It's almost like an island of misfit toys like in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer where these people are not really accepted anywhere else except this bar and they're all there for each other."
The connection between the cast behind the scenes is equally tight-knit. "There's not one dark cloud on this set," he says. So should viewers expect any sing-alongs to "Don't Look Back in Anger", or any other songs from the catalog of Byrne's "all-time favorite" band Oasis, in future episodes? Not quite yet. "I don't mind singing songs that are on the jukebox at the top of my lungs and trying to rally everybody, so I'm definitely a good time Charlie," Byrne says. "I don't know if we could incorporate that at some point, but we definitely incorporate it sometimes when we wrap."
Sullivan & Son premieres Thursday at 10/9c on TBS.