Pauly Shore ? the Ritalin-deprived frizzy-haired goofball who motormouthed his way through comedies like 'Son In Law' and 'California Man' ? suddenly sounds down. And frankly, it's a little disconcerting. Like discovering your high school crush is gay.
But the 'Biodome' star has reason to be somewhat less than giddy: I've brought up his glory days, the string of films he made in the early '90s before Hollywood sent him packing.
"Do people still come up expecting you to be that crazy guy?," I ask.
"Dude, everywhere I go."
He sounds a little exasperated.
"Are you happy to oblige?"
"It depends on if I'm sober or not," he admits. "If I'm drunk it's ok..."
"And what if you come across one of your old movies on TV? Do you change the channel or keep watching?"
"I watch for a little."
"Does it feel weird to see yourself in that context?"
"It is weird," Shore agrees. "It's bittersweet because those movies I had such a great time doing and now Hollywood's not giving me those big movies anymore. So I feel a little depressed sometimes when I watch them because I felt the movies were good."
Oddly, there's no trace of bitterness in his voice.
"John Travolta once said to me: 'If they took movies away from Robin Williams, do you think he'd still be Robin Williams?' And I said: 'Yeah. Just because they're not giving you movies right now, doesn't mean you need to stop being yourself.'
"Now there's just not a big movie camera in front of me."
When his film star career crashed and burned, and a subsequent sitcom failed, Shore returned to the family business ? standup comedy. His father was a warm-up act for Elvis, his mother ("the Mother Theresa of comedy") owns The Comedy Store in California with alumni like Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and Williams.
Slowly he returned to the screen - first in the self-produced, semi-autobiographical "mockumentary" 'Pauly Shore Is Dead'; subsequently in shows like 'Entourage'.
"I think in life there's two types of people ? there's victims and then there's leaders," says Shore, now sounding more like himself.
"I used to be a victim and then I became a leader.
"So now I continuously create my own stuff and then if you get calls to be in movies or things like 'Entourage', it's icing on the cake. So I'll continuously stay busy, doing my little films and putting stuff out there until Hollywood calls again.
"It doesn't really matter, because I'm fulfilling what's inside of me."
His latest fulfilment is 'Adopted', which has the comic following in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie and Madonna by adopting an African child.
But what can he offer kids that his multi-millionaire predecessors can't?
"Absolutely nothing," he deadpans. "For me it was just a mockumentary film. I'm not serious about adopting a child at all."
And yet it's a pretty serious subject. Not that Shore was too worried.
"I think my focus was to keep it fun. Keep it light and keep it just like a good time."
So you see an exaggerated version of Shore ("I'm so tired of playing myself") meeting average people, while taking kids out for "job interviews" ? up Table Mountain, on the putt-putt course, to a game lodge ? and trying not to lose them in the process.
"Sam Hendrikse, the producer, said to me that people in Africa have never seen a film about their culture like this. It's always like 'Blood Diamond' or 'Out of Africa' or all these more serious, heavy-handed films.
"So you take me who's a little offbeat, a little bizarre and you stick me in a serious kind of environment. Everybody lights up and we have a really good time," he offers.
"That's my style of comedy. My comedy is about interacting with people."
And in 'Adopted', shot in South Africa during a 2007 visit, interact he certainly does.
"This is a film for you guys. It was filmed in your streets. It wasn't filmed in Detroit or on some Hollywood set," he gushes.
"You guys should own it and you guys should celebrate it, because it's not about Aids and death and poverty and all that shit. It's a comedy, it's light."
I can't see Pauly Shore ? he's sitting in a hotel room in Las Vegas ? but I can hear he's smiling again.
> 'Adopted' is released in South Africa by Ster-Kinekor and showing exclusively at Ster-Kinekor theatres nationwide.