Kevin Nealon on filming his new Showtime special and his wine-drinking fans
Kevin Nealon is best known for his nine seasons of Saturday Night Live and his role on the hit Showtime series Weeds. But what some don't know is that Nealon has been a steady stand-up comic throughout his career, doing bits on things like how he doesn't actually smoke weed and his fear of chimp attacks. Nealon will be filming his second Showtime comedy special tonight at Comedy Works South (with additional shows on Saturday). We caught up with the comedian on his new special, his wine-drinking fans, and his teenage stint in garage bands.
Westword: I read that your original ambition was just to do stand-up, not acting.
Kevin Nealon: Yeah, that was my original goal and I didn't even think about acting; stand-up was what I wanted to do and the acting came secondary. So I started taking workshops and studying acting and continued to do my comedy at the same time. And I never let go of the comedy, even throughout my years on Saturday Night Live and Weeds I still continued to do stand-up comedy in clubs in my off-weeks and on my off-nights.
What do you like about stand-up that keeps you doing it?
I like it because I'm in control and I like the immediate response from the audience; you don't have to wait like a sitcom for it to go into production and be shown later, or a movie. And you have that immediate interaction with the audience as well, and you can be topical as well.
What's your process of writing?
I have a lot of different processes. Comedy comes from a lot of different avenues, like sometimes I'll be with my friends and we'll just be loose and we'll be talking and laughing about things and I'll come up with something and I'll kind of write it down in my iPhone so I remember it. Or I'll just sit down and start writing about a topic and try to come up with something that way. But it just happens naturally. That's the most organic and I think the most pure comedy.
How do you know when the material is ready to start filming for a special?
Well, you know, I used think it was never ready. But that's why it took me so long to do my first special, because I never thought my material was ready enough, because I always wanted something better, or newer, so I would hold off for a long time and then one day I decided it was just time to do it. Because a lot of people didn't know I do stand-up comedy, because I'd never done any specials and I never do it on talk shows, so I thought that was the appropriate time to do a special and kind of document my material and put it out there for people to enjoy.
Was that material that you've been doing your whole career?
It was more the recent material, but when you're developing an act you discard old material and replace it with new material and to this day I'll still have people come up to me and say "Hey, remember that joke you used to do about such and such?" And I'll go "Oh, yeah yeah yeah! That was my`favorite joke!" And I completely forgot about it because I had replaced it with new material.
Do you still watch SNL?
Occasionally I do, yeah. I DVR it every week and I try to get around to watching it.
What actors and skits do you like?
I like Fred Armisen, I like a lot of the actors on there, you know, Kristin Wiig, I just don't watch it that much where I'm on top of you know, what's going on with the show. I loved the one with Melissa McCarthy hosting. That was my favorite I think. I've only seen a few this year.
Do you ever miss doing SNL?
You know, not really. Not really. I miss living in New York City. Well, I was on that show for nine seasons so I really got my fill of it.
It sounds like it's a pretty grueling lifestyle.
It's as grueling as...you know, as much pressure as you put on yourself makes it grueling, because you have this great opportunity to come up with characters and sketches and if you don't jump on that you kind of beat yourself up, so I think that's how it becomes grueling. But if you kind of just pace yourself and know that the writers with kind of look out for you and you know, enjoy the ride. I think that's how you stay on that show for a while.
How is doing something like Weeds different from SNL?
Weeds is, well, first of all it's not live and you don't have an audience so you're not feeding of the audience. And you don't have that immediacy of having to get everything in the right place by the live show, you know. Shooting Weeds is a little more laid back.
How did you end up on Weeds?
I basically had the script sent to me by my agent and I auditioned for it. They hired me as a guest star in the pilot and then the show got picked up and they made me a regular guest.