Until two years ago, the only thing Chris Kattan did involving stand-up comedy was make fun of it.
The comic actor and Saturday Night Live alum remembers an entire sketch he helped dream up poking fun at terrible stand-up comedians during his time at the legendary Los Angeles comedy improv school The Groundlings.
"The main key is to have a lot of confidence and to act like you know what you're saying," Kattan said.
Now, after decades doing sketch comedy, television and film, Kattan, 42, has decided to devote his time to stand-up comedy and getting audiences to laugh at him for all the right reasons.
He plays a four-night stand at Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this week.
Kattan wasn't trained to be a stand-up comic, but he was practically born to get laughs. His father was one of the original members of The Groundlings comedy troupe, and Kattan had no problem following suit. He remembers his time coming up with former SNL cast member Will Ferrell, Friends alum Lisa Kudrow and others before joining the SNL cast in 1995.
Before leaving the show in 2003, Kattan became one of the show's star players and created an eclectic lineup of memorable characters, including the curiously irresistible male exotic dancer Mango, the unruly lab monkey Mr. Peepers and, with Ferrell, the head-nodding, dance-club denizens the Butabi Brothers. The latter skit eventually landed on the big screen in the comedy A Night at the Roxbury.
Despite the over-the-top nature of the characters he has created, Kattan said he thinks there's something that grounds them all and helps them stick in an audience's memory.
"I felt like all my characters were human," he said. "That's what makes you like them. When they're human, you relate to them more."
Two years ago, Kattan decided to try stand-up. Granted, he basically improvised for 20 minutes because, well, that's his forte. As he started touring, selling out comedy clubs and getting positive feedback from crowds, Kattan became more determined to devote his time to honing his newfound skill.
"It is a different method I'm using, and one of the things that's different is I'm actually talking now," he said, laughing.
Kattan said he doesn't just "have a bunch of jokes," but he's learned to craft a show with a beginning, middle and end that allows for plenty of detours. He might talk about personal issues like the loss of his father or take audiences behind-the-scenes with stories from his SNL days. Then again, he might re-enact Game of Thrones or Mad Men in 60 seconds, impersonating all of the characters, or just jump into the crowd and treat people to a lap dance courtesy of his character Corky Romano.
"I can't help but get involved with the audience all the time," Kattan said. "I have a way of not putting a wall between us. It still allows me to goof around when I want to."
Stand-up comedy is giving Kattan the creative fulfillment he's constantly seeking as a performer, and he thinks he's honing in on a style that works for him and his fans.
"I know the audience wants to see me, but not exactly me," Kattan said. "I think the mix is there."
IF YOU GO
When: 7:15 p.m. May 9, 12; 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. May 10, 11
Where: Comedy Off Broadway, The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir.
Tickets: $18 May 9, 12; $22 May 10; $25 May 11. Available at (859) 271-5653 or Comedyoffbroadway.com.