A lifetime of laughter

Jon Lovitz will per­form at the He­li­um Com­edy Club on Sept. 27, 28 and 29.


For the first 10 years of his ca­reer, Jon Lovitz did plays in high school, earned a bach­el­or’s de­gree in drama at the Uni­versity of Cali­for­nia - Irvine, and stud­ied act­ing with Tony Barr at the Film Act­ors Work­shop.

“I thought it was my lucky day when I got ac­cep­ted in­to The Ground­lings com­edy group in 1982,” said Lovitz, 55, set to ap­pear at the He­li­um Com­edy Club on Sansom Street on Sept. 27, 28 and 29.

But he hadn’t seen any­thing yet, for in 1985, when the Ground­lings ap­peared on The To­night Show with Johnny Car­son, Lovitz premiered his Tommy Flanagan of Patho­lo­gic­al Li­ars An­onym­ous and was about to see his star really be­gin to shine. That ap­pear­ance kicked off a series of events, in­clud­ing a movie — Last Re­sort — a series of voi­ceovers, and per­haps the biggest break of his ca­reer, a stint with Sat­urday Night Live that las­ted from 1985 to ’90.

His list of char­ac­ters also began to grow and blos­som. Aside from the ever-pop­u­lar Tommy Flanagan (“Yeh! That’s the tick­et!”), oth­ers were also born, in­clud­ing Shakespeare ham Mas­ter Thespi­an, Ha­nukkah Harry, and the im­per­son­a­tions of Mi­chael Duka­kis and Har­vey Fier­stein, among oth­ers.

”Some of the char­ac­ters just came out of my head, and oth­ers were based on people I’d seen or knew,” Lovitz ex­plained. “Flanagan was based on an old Thin Man movie I had watched but I ad­ded my own parts to it to make it funny. And Mas­ter Thespi­an was a com­bin­a­tion of act­ors like John Bar­ry­more and John Car­radine, and one of my drama pro­fess­ors in col­lege.”

Lovitz was born in Cali­for­nia and said he was al­ways the class clown and had his sights set on be­com­ing an act­or/comedi­an.

“I saw Woody Al­len in Take the Money and Run when I was thir­teen years old, and he be­came my in­spir­a­tion. It was then I de­cided I wanted to be a comedi­an.”

Twenty-nine years later, Lovitz met Al­len and got to ap­pear in his film Small Time Crooks, thus ful­filling one of his child­hood dreams of work­ing with his idol. A year later, Lovitz ful­filled an­oth­er child­hood dream when Neil Si­mon in­vited him to join the Broad­way cast of his play, The Din­ner Party.

“When Woody cast me in Small Time Crooks, he ac­tu­ally told me to add what I wanted in my dia­logue,” Lovitz re­membered. “Woody Al­len was let­ting me im­pro­vise! And Neil Si­mon per­son­ally asked me to do The Din­ner Party. I’m not kid­ding. It doesn’t get bet­ter than that.”

And yet, des­pite all his suc­cess on tele­vi­sion, film and stage, Lovitz was un­able to work up the nerve to per­form stan­dup com­edy un­til re­cently.

“I was al­ways go­ing to do stan­dup,” he said, “the way some guys are al­ways say­ing they are go­ing to climb Mt. Everest. But I fi­nally de­cided to try it one night at the Laugh Fact­ory in Hol­ly­wood, and it didn’t take long to real­ize that audi­ences really did want to see Jon Lovitz be­ing funny and silly. I was home. I was safe. And I’ve been do­ing it and en­joy­ing it ever since.”

In fact, he en­joyed it so much that he opened his own com­edy club in 2007, where he has a chance to try out his weekly stan­dup per­form­ances. He’s also giv­en a stage to oth­er pop­u­lar com­ics, in­clud­ing Dana Carvey, Dav­id Spade, Car­los Men­cia and a whole host of oth­er funny­men.

With a new TV sit­com called Mr. Box Of­fice about to start in syn­dic­a­tion, and a movie sched­uled with Adam Sand­ler, Lovitz is en­joy­ing it all, and al­ways re­mem­bers the ad­vice giv­en him by his fath­er.

“My fath­er was a phys­i­cian but he nev­er pushed me in any dir­ec­tion,” Lovitz said. “He told me to just do what I was pas­sion­ate about, and pick something that nev­er feels like work, something I just can’t wait to start do­ing every morn­ing when I wake up.” ••

For show times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-496-9001.

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