To tell the truth
On TV and onstage, comedian Kevin Nealon finds humor in the funniest places
By Carl Kozlowski 11/14/2013
Comedian Kevin Nealon has had one of the longest acting runs in the history of “Saturday Night Live,” when he starred on the show from 1986 to 1995, and just last year finished a seven-season run on the hit Showtime series “Weeds.”
But long before either of those lengthy stints, the 60-year-old St. Louis native was already a successful standup comic, and he has continued to hone his chops onstage throughout his acting career.
On Sunday, Nealon will be working his magic on the stage of the Ice House Comedy Club, telling jokes and sharing stories of the other big production from the last few years of his life: His 6-year-old son, Gable.
“Being a dad like this works great for me, because I got to be crazy when I was younger. It’s a new experience for me, and there’s a plethora of material there,” says Nealon, speaking last week in a phone interview from Columbus, Ohio. “It’s like a life extender for me, giving me more to live for and keeps me going.”
Nealon fell in love with comedy when he was a child, watching Jerry Lewis movies before discovering Bill Cosby albums. He started performing in the 1970s, studying the innovative styles of comics of the time, like Andy Kaufman, Albert Brooks and Steve Martin.
“My approach is that I kind of see standup comedy as magic, because you are fooling the audience, getting them to believe something that isn’t true and never letting on that you’re telling jokes,” says Nealon. “It’s sort of a character I’m doing on stage. If I reveal too much, I shudder that it’s like a magician saying, ‘This is a trick, it’s not really happening.’”
Nealon says his act has evolved over the years, becoming “less silly and more truth-based,” though he’ll still break into his beloved Subliminal Man “SNL” character while onstage.
Nealon reflects that his successful acting turns on “SNL” and “Weeds” came about less from planning and more through fate.
“’SNL’ came along suddenly for me because Dana Carvey recommended me, along with a couple other guys,” says Nealon. “The first year I was a writer and featured player, and I was upgraded to regular the next year. I never thought I was right for it, but they liked my chemistry and what I brought to that show. I had a lot of on-the-job training there, and unlike many others, I didn’t see it as a stepping stone. I loved the city and to work with guest stars each week.”
But, eventually, “I think the writing was on the wall; they were bringing in new people and Lorne [Michaels] had seen all my tricks. I was ready for a change.”
Kevin Nealon performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Ice House Comedy Club, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $20. Call (626) 577-1894 or visit icehousecomedy.com.