Kevin Nealon: Don't call the comedian 'old-school'

Contributing Culture WriterMay 8, 2014 

Kevin Nealon starred for nearly 10 years on Saturday Night Live and was on the Showtime series Weeds for seven years. He's working on new material as he tours comedy clubs.

COURTESY OF KEVIN NEALON

  • IF YOU GO

    Kevin Nealon

    Special guests: Mike Capozzola and Scott Wilson

    When: 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. May 9 and 10

    Where: Comedy Off Broadway, in The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir.

    Tickets: $25 on May 9, $28 on May 10. Available at (859) 271-5653 or Comedyoffbroadway.com.

During Kevin Nealon's nearly 10-year run on Saturday Night Live, from 1986 to 1995, he helped create several characters fans still remember. One of them is "Mr. Subliminal," a man who would sneak his innermost thoughts (which were often terrible) into his regular dialogue.

Nealon's style of stand-up comedy is similar in that it's not exactly in your face.

"I love the misdirection," Nealon, 60, said. "I like to talk about the absurdity of things. It's become more my point of view with just a bit of a twist on it."

Before Nealon came to SNL, he began as a stand-up comic, and he made his network television debut on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1984. The fame he later garnered from SNL resulted in frequent appearances on the big and small screens. He was a supporting player in the Adam Sandler Happy Gilmore and Just Go With It , and he portrayed corrupt pot-smoking accountant/politician Doug Wilson on the Showtime series Weeds from 2005 to 2012.

"I was curious if there was anything that would be up with SNL along in that stratosphere, and then Weeds came along," said Nealon, who, by the way, says he does not use the drug that prominently featured in that show. "It was nice to be on a show that kind of took off."

Throughout his acting career, Nealon continued to do stand-up and develop his craft from the "well-meaning idiot" to the comic he is today. He released two specials for Showtime, 2009's Now Hear Me Out and 2012's Whelmed But Not Overly.

He's now on tour working out new material, which he will bring to Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this weekend. Writing a new hour's worth of stand-up comedy, Nealon said, is no easy task even after 30 years.

"It really takes a long time to generate," he said. "You don't want to get to the point where you think everything you say is funny."

Nealon also continues to act in movies, most recently appearing in the new Elizabeth Banks comedy Walk of Shame and the upcoming romantic comedy Blended starring Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Nealon continues to draw a crowd for his stand-up comedy, but he admits that he had an unusual feeling recently when he performed at a college campus and a young student referred to his comedy as "old-school."

Sure, two of his biggest idols are Steve Martin and Chevy Chase, and he's not as loud, angry, vulgar or indie as some of the today's comics, but he says he continues to apply his perspective to fresh topics to stay relevant to a new audience.

"I have a 7-year-old. I don't want to be doing stand-up when he's 14 or 15 and he says, 'My dad's old-school,'" Nealon said. "'No Comic Left Behind!' That's my motto."

Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.

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