On Saturday, August 16, the cast of the TBS summer hit series Sullivan & Son head to The Wilbur in what is by far the longest pub crawl ever. Comedians Steve Byrne, Roy Wood, Jr., Owen Benjamin, and Ahmed Ahmed are set to perform at the historical Boston theater, bringing together four highly-sought after headliners to one stage.
Executive Produced by Vince Vaughn, the show follows Steve Sullivan [Byrne], a corporate lawyer who surprises his parents when he leaves his job to take over a bar owned by his father in Pittsburgh. Actor, comedian and director Ahmed Ahmed made his first appearance as unlucky in love, tow-truck driver [and best friend to Steve] “Ahmed” in season one, and joined the cast as a series regular in season two, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Season three offers fans even more of the widely-loved comedian, as he graduates from series regular to co-star. Currently the only Arab-American actor playing a non-stereotypical role on a comedy sitcom, today, Ahmed is truly breaking ground by securing a starring role in the series.
Ahmed recently took the time to chat with the Boston Comedy Scene Examiner about wrapping up Season 3 and bringing their individual comedic brands together to bring comedy to America’s backyard.
BCSE: Congratulations on really becoming a more regular member of Sullivan & Son.
AA: Oh thanks, we literally just wrapped Tuesday night, Season 3.
AA: And now I’m on the road with the four guys, well, three guys and myself in Pittsburgh, and we just started our official tour.
BCSE: Excellent. That’s kind of cool that you started it right in Pittsburgh.
AA: We kind of hit the ground running as soon as we wrapped. We said, ‘All right guys, let’s go on the road and go promote it.’
BCSE: Right, and you have a lot of shows in a short span of time, or a lot of cities.
AA: Yeah, it’s Steve Byrne who is the star and creator of the show. Originally it was like, ‘Hey guys let’s just this many shows this year.’ And then every week he’d call us up and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to add a city, I’m going to add a city.’ So we’re like at 20-something, but it’s really fun and all the guys are great to work with, and we have a blast together.
BCSE: I was talking to Steve about that recently, that you guys are all genuinely friends. That just makes the show that much stronger.
AA: Yeah, we each do 20 minutes on stage and I go up first. Then Roy Wood, Jr. follows me, and Owen Benjamin follows him, and Steve Byrne closes the show. When he’s done, he brings all of us back up on stage and we do kind of like a Rat-Pack, old-school kind of Vegas style bit – we sing short songs and Owen plays the piano, and we include the audience.
BCSE: That’s awesome. That sounds like a really, really fun show.
AA: Yeah it is, and we’re all headliners, so it’s like the audience is getting pretty much four shows in one.
AA: And it’s fun. It’s just a fun show and everybody has distinct styles and cadence and material and points of view. So you get totally different headliners. And Steve calls us the four-headed monster.
BCSE: I would’ve gone with like ‘The Four Horsemen’.
AA: Four Horsemen, if we were riding horses.
BCSE: (Laughs) So now speaking of all of you being headliners, any plans for you to release a special or CD anytime soon?
AA: Yeah, I’m queuing up to do something, hopefully at the end of the year or early next year. I’m just still writing material, and I’ve got a couple half hour specials that I’ve done on Showtime. The first time around, I’m looking to do something a little different and unique. I might even do like a sort of stand-up comedy / multimedia special. I’m not quite sure exactly the form that I’m going to do it in, but I’m probably going to try to shoot something late this year or early next year.
BCSE: That’s exciting. I’ll be looking forward to that for sure.
BCSE: What are you mostly looking forward to about the tour?
AA: You know, we haven’t been on the road together in over a year. So it’s nice to get back on the road with the guys. We did thirteen episodes of Sullivan & Son, and it’s an awesome experience and a situation to be in because you’re on TV and working around just a great environment with writers and director and producers, and TBS has been really supportive of us. And you know Vince Vaughan and Peter Billingsley are our Executive Producers, so we’re in good hands comedically. But, we’ve been trapped in a soundstage for the last thirteen weeks. So we’re comedians, and I guess by nature, we like to be free. Being on the road allows us that freedom to kind of bounce around and not have anybody look over our shoulder, except for the fans. We’re taking comedy into America’s backyard and sharing our experience with the viewers and the fans and the people who support the show. That’s what we’re looking forward to: bringing the stand-up comedy into America’s backyard and get the awareness out of Season 3 of Sullivan & Son and get people watching every Tuesday night.
BCSE: What a great way to cap off shooting the series.
AA: Yeah, it just kind of made sense because there’s ten cast members on the show, and the four of us are stand-up comedians of over fifteen years. So Steve just thought, hey, it makes sense to go and take four of us and go on the road and do a Sullivan & Son comic tour and really get the awareness out there, and it’s been working. Every year we go out and do this. This is our third year. We push the needle a little bit in each city. People either watch the show and they are excited about it, or people leave the stand-up comedy show and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve never heard of you guys, but I’m going to start watching you.’ So it’s literally a grassroots, boots on the ground, kind of political campaign in a sense. We do a lot of morning radio and morning television and talk to people like yourself. And just really trying to get the word out there.
BCSE: That’s awesome. And you don’t necessarily see that a lot when it comes to comedians who get shows on TV. They’re not out there on the ground doing that grassroots effort.
AA: Yeah, we’re kind of a rare anomaly in a sense, because not only do we take advantage of stand-up skills and platform, but we all, including the cast, tend to use social media quite a bit. So we’re all on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, really just trying to pump the word out there to make sure people won’t forget about us because we’re a summer show. We’re off the air for 40 some-odd weeks or 50 some-odd weeks. So we just want to make sure that we’re reminding people that we’re still around and it’s a funny show and you should make sure to tune in.
BCSE: Yeah, it’s a great strategy too, because I know for me and a lot of people I know, the tour gives them that personal connection to you guys. And that is an incentive in-and-of itself for them to watch the show.
AA: Sure. A lot of people, because we, after the show, literally stand outside on the lobby of whatever venue we’re playing and shake every single person’s hand and take pictures if they want and sign t-shirts and really just connect with the audience. It’s a formula that not a lot of shows do, who have stand-up comics on them. And it’s been working. This season, I think is our best season ever. There are a lot of twists and turns and character developments, and the writers have really captured our voices this season. And not to mention we’re surrounded around an amazing cast filled with such talented people. Christine Ebersole, who’s a two-time Tony Award winning actress, and Brian Doyle-Murray, who wrote Caddyshack and was on Saturday Night Live back in the day, and Dan Lauria is a Broadway actor. He was the father on The Wonder Years. Jodi Long, who plays Steve’s mom, she’s a Broadway actress and has been on several film and television programs. And Valerie Azlynn and Vivian Bang, and we’re just really blessed to have a multi-generational, multi-diverse cast. And it’s a politically incorrect show, so we really push the envelope with race and politics and religion, and nobody’s really safe.
BCSE: Right, in that sense, it’s very reminiscent of sort of the Golden Age of sitcoms back in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, you know, which I think television has strayed from so much lately. And it’s so good to see that in the show.
AA: Well, it’s great for me, it’s kind of funny because I play a tow truck driver coincidentally named Ahmed. And it’s funny, my father had his own two truck business back when I was a kid. But when Steve and the writers were writing the piece, they didn’t know that. They just thought ‘let’s give him a job that’s blue collar and mainstream. How about he drives a tow truck?’ So that’s kind of fun. I grew up watching all those throwback sitcoms that you mentioned: The Wonder Years, All in the Family, Good Times, Sanford & Son, Three’s Company, Happy Days, all these great sitcoms that I grew up watching. These kind of molded together. Our show is basically All in the Family meets Married with Children meets Cheers.
BCSE: Right, you hit the nail on the head - and you get a winning combination. Like I said, you get the four of you together on one stage is going to be absolutely amazing. And we’re really excited to having you guys coming to Boston.
AA: Oh yeah, we’re excited too. Boston’s always been good to us and we’re excited to pass through there and put on a good comedy show and get the word out about the show. The show and the tour keeps us busy for five, six months out of the year. So it’s a great job to have and I feel extremely grateful, not only to be on the show, to be on the tour, because I get to work with my best friends.
BCSE: Right, right, not a lot of people get to do that.
AA: Yeah, it’s very rare to do that.
Don’t miss out on this four-headliner show as the cast of TBS’ Sullivan & Son pub crawls their way into the heart of Boston’s historic theater district on Saturday, August 16 at The Wilbur. The show goes down at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are available through the Wilbur box office. The Wilbur is located at 246 Tremont Street in Boston, MA.