Steve Byrne hails from Pittsburgh, which explains his obsession with the hometown hockey team and the fact that his TBS series, "Sullivan & Son," which returns for its third season Tuesday, is set in Steel City.
But in a phone conversation last week, we unearthed a number of Minnesota connections, not the least of which is a two-night stand at Acme Comedy Co. this weekend with his sitcom castmates.
Q: Your wife is from Winona. Have you spent much time there?
A: Yeah. She's in the kitchen right now. Her parents still live there with two cats, which is why we stay at a hotel down the street. Honey, what's the name of that doughnut place? (Pause) Bloedow's! I remember we went there after mass. It was no bigger than a guest bathroom and people were lined up outside the door when it was 20-below. As soon as I had one bite, I understood why.
Q: What are your overall thoughts about the region?
A: People are so darn nice, I feel like I owe them money. I've been tracking the Minnesota Wild because I'm such a big fan of Zach Parise. It was nice to see them make a dent in the playoffs, although with the talent they have, they should have gone further. I can't get over how cold it gets in the winter. I've never experienced anything like that. It's like the planet in the opening of "The Empire Strikes Back."
Q: You had a chance to meet one of our most famous figures. What was your experience with Prince like?
A: Me and two other comedians shot a promo for CBS when he was doing the Super Bowl. The premise was that we would be sitting in a boardroom, pitching him ideas for his halftime show. When he waltzed in for the taping, nobody said anything. For the next half-hour, we were shellshocked. When we were done, he walked out and shut the door. A few seconds later, he opened the door back up, looked at us, said, "You're all beautiful" and left again. We high-fived each other.
Q: You're also friends with Minnesota-born Vince Vaughn. What can you tell us about him that might surprise people?
A: He's really intelligent. He can work a room and go from conversation to conversation, talking about everything from football to the government. I don't know how he finds the time to learn a little bit about everything. With me, if it's not hockey or the weather, I check out.
Q: Your series is set in a bar. Were you worried that you would automatically be compared to "Cheers"?
A: I think it's like comparing "The Cosby Show" with "Married … With Children." Both take place in a house and deal with family issues, but they are two very different shows. I'm not Sam Malone. We get away with more things because we're on cable. We get to experiment and cross the line, especially when it comes to dealing with racial issues.
Q: You're touring with your castmates from "Sullivan & Son." Do you ever get sick of each other?
A: Not really. As a professional comedian, you're always by yourself. Now we're a team. When we're on the road, we do press in the morning and then check out something local, like a burrito joint or a historical landmark. It adds a little flavor to the show, like an olive branch. It's a great icebreaker.
Q: Any ideas where you might go in Minneapolis?
A: I'll probably have a Jucy Lucy. Those burgers are darn good.
Q: The sitcom was put on hold for six weeks last year after a Los Angeles cabdriver punched you in the face and you had to have your jaw wired shut. What did you learn by not being able to talk or eat solid food for six weeks, other than not to tick off an L.A. cabdriver?
A: That's a tough question to answer. For legal reasons I can't go into details, because the case is still pending. I can tell you the thing that really went through my head was how much I appreciated the show. For a while, no one knew what was going to happen and I worried that I was jeopardizing the livelihood of 200 people. It also put me in a reflective mode. It made me appreciate being healthy. Not to go deep, but health is freedom because there are things you can't do if you're not 100 percent. I've slimmed down quite a bit since then.
Q: What food did you miss the most?
A: Everything! You can't watch TV without being bombarded with ads for McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's. The trade-off was I got to have chocolate milkshakes every day. I started mixing chocolate chips and other stuff in with them. I never got sick of them. I was eating like an eighth-grader.