Kevin Nealon, an actor and comedian probably best known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, and more recently the hit series Weeds, will be at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street Aug. 4 to 6.
According to Nealon, no matter how well-known he may become for his TV appearances, he will always need to come back to the stage to perform his standup in front of a live audience.
“Today, doing Weeds makes me extremely happy,“ Nealon said. “I’m now in my seventh year and it’s all been a great experience for me. I originally auditioned for the show just as a guest star, but I got picked up and eventually became a regular. But I never thought the show would continue this long. I’m amazed and grateful at the same time. It’s a really fun show to do.”
But Nealon never will forget his beginnings as a standup, still one of his favorite things to do.
“Standup is an art form that really needs to be oiled. It’s also a great way to break out of a standard routine and open your mind up to new areas,” he said.
But it’s all been good and opened up his mind. Looking back, he said he’s enjoyed every part of his career — from his beginnings at all those open-mike nights that led to his successes, and even the part-time jobs that helped support him.
“When I found that New York City was too intimidating for me, I moved out to Los Angeles and got a lot of part-time jobs during the day so I could do standup at night. I gave myself two years to see some progress and, if not, I’d find something else to do.”
Eventually, Nealon landed a job as a bartender at the famous comedy club The Improv, which he said was a great job because if a comic didn’t show up, he got to go on. And soon, everything seemed to work out — especially when he landed on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
“That was in August of 1984, and I think it was the true turning point in my career,” Nealon said.
“It was the hottest show ever, and for a comic, the show validated you. It was like being a lawyer and passing the bar exam.”
The following year, Saturday Night Live recruited Nealon’s friend, Dana Carvey, and Carvey in turn recommended Nealon. Both joined the cast that year, and Nealon became a full-time performer, remaining for nine seasons.
Some of his memorable SNL characters included Mr. Subliminal (or Subliminal Message Man), Franz (of Hans and Franz), Mr. No Depth Perception, the anchor of Weekend Update and others.
Nealon, 58, has also appeared in such films as Happy Gilmore, Anger Management and Little Nicky. But it seems standup continues to appeal to this performer.
With a young son of his own, he tries to schedule his time wisely. “I try to balance everything,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest obstacles in my life since there never seems to be enough time to do it all. But I do make my son my priority, taking him with me when I can, or limiting the amount of time I spend on the road.”
Today, seeming to enjoy it all, Nealon said perhaps the best part of his career was at the very beginning.
“I’ve enjoyed it all, especially the beginning doing all those open-mike nights, standing in lines and following my dream,” he said. “Part of that is incomparable to anything else. You’re fresh, you’re young, and it’s exciting, and you get to have that adrenaline rush because you don’t know what lies ahead of you. It’s something I’ll never forget.” ••
For ticket information, call 215-496-9001.