By David DeRocco “When I see someone who is just going out to a comedy club for the first time I think, ‘wow, what rock have you been under,’” laughs versatile American funnyman and Saturday Night Live alumni Kevin Nealon. “There’s really kind of been a resurgence in comedy these past few years, almost like it was in the ‘80s. I’ll go to these comedy clubs in L.A. and there are lines and everything’s sold out.”
Given the divisive political climate in his home country, making people laugh should almost be considered a public service – or at least a mandatory prescription for improving mental health. However, as someone who made his television comedy debut back in ’84 on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, the veteran comedian and actor suggests comedy is an art form that’s easily adaptable to the times regardless of who’s in office.
“I think the world is always changing and as a comic you have to kind of change and adapt as well,” said Nealon, a former Weekend Update host who created such memorable SNL characters as Subliminal Message Man and Franz (of Hans and Franz) with Dana Carvey. “If you’re a seasoned comic you’re able to adjust and make jokes about anything really. I think the hardest part about being a comic is the challenge we make to ourselves. For me it’s being more disciplined and sitting down and writing more.”
Discipline doesn’t appear to be a major issue for Nealon, whose expansive career resume includes published author, movie star and critically-acclaimed television actor for his role in the series, Weeds. However, it was the nine years he spent as a cast member with SNL – including replacing Dennis Miller as host of Weekend Update – that secured Nealon’s place in the lexicon of American comedy television. It was a typical stretch for the ever-rotating SNL cast, full of controversies including Sinead O’Connor’s infamous shredding of the Pope’s picture, a near-staff mutiny to protest Andrew Dice Clay’s appearance and a presidential intervention to stop jokes about a then 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton. Surprisingly, despite the risks involved in mocking the famous, Nealon said many of the Weekend Update targets actually relished being mentioned on the influential SNL segment.
“I think controversy is always expected on that show and that’s kind of the cog in the wheel there that makes it work, because it is live and things happen and people react. The interesting thing was, a lot of times you made fun of people on that show and they loved it, because it brought attention to them and helped their careers. Invariably, they’d send you gifts for making fun of them.”
As for who and what he’ll be making fun of when he appears on the FirstOntario PAC stage, Nealon says the audience could be the benefactors of a new side to his comedy writing.
“I do a special act for Canadians,” laughs Nealon. “No, I don’t really. I only tailor my act to the city, throwing in some local things. It’s pretty relatable wherever I go. But all the material is approved by me so that’s good. I think I’m going to be taking more risks with my material. I’ve been writing a lot more and a lot of my material has become a little more introspective. You evolve as you get older and I think my new material is a little more risqué.”