For anyone considering a career in show business, Kevin Nealon, about to take the stage at the Helium Comedy Club for five shows Aug. 14-16, has a word of warning: ”Careful what you wish for.“
“This is not an easy business to be in and especially be successful in. For me, it got to the point where I wanted to see my kid play ball or graduate from high school, and I didn’t want to miss any of that. I’ve seen that happen. Too many performers lose touch with their families. So I say learn about writing. Learn to do something that will keep you in town.”
Still, Nealon, 60, wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what he’s doing, so he’s learned what his priorities are.
“I’ve learned not to tour too much, but rather go out and do weekend dates and then come home and spend the week with my family.”
Nealon was born in St. Louis, Mo., but soon moved with his family to Bridgeport, Conn. Memorizing jokes from a trade magazine, Nealon said he would go to neighborhood parties and tell the jokes. which everyone seemed to like. In fact, they liked them so much that a friend suggested Nealon go to New York and try his skills there.
“I took his advice but I found New York frightening. The crowds were loud and brash and so were the other comics. New York was tough so I went back to Connecticut.”
After graduating from Sacred Heart University with a degree in marketing, and working at a series of part-time jobs while continuing to do stand-up comedy, he eventually decided to move to Los Angeles to try hitting the big time once again.
And this time, he succeeded, displaying his brand of comedy on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1984. Not long after that, he put his stamp on several characters as a regular for nine years on Saturday Night Live.
Nealon’s SNL characters included Mr. Subliminal (or Subliminal Message Man); Franz (of Hans and Franz), along with his pal Dana Carvey; Mr. No Depth Perception Man; and the anchor of Weekend News, where his catchphrase was. “That’s news to me.”
Later, he received critical acclaim for his role in the Showtime series, Weeds. Nealon was on that show for eight seasons, and was such a strong force that he said some people often mistook him for his character on the series — a stoned accountant and business adviser — and were unable to separate the real man from the character he played.
“That was the nice thing about SNL,” he said. “We often played different characters on the show so people didn’t mistake me for someone else.”
Nealon also graduated to the big screen, appearing in many fine films, such as Anger Management with Jack Nicholson, The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore and others. He continues to do guest appearances on many television shows and even penned a book, but admitted he still gets a thrill out of doing stand-up.
“Comedy is my favorite form of expression. It’s my forte. It’s my passion. It’s all I ever wanted to do. And even after all these years, it never gets old. It never ceases to thrill me.” ••
Helium Comedy Club is at 2031 Sansom St. For times and ticket information, visit https://center-stage.seatengine.com/venues/helium-comedy-club/events/4780/shows