Kevin Nealon has gone girly-man.
Formerly the faux-muscular, sweats-clad character Franz on Saturday Night Live, Nealon today is best known as Doug Wilson, a woebegone, self-medicating former city councilor on the award-winning Showtime series Weeds. He also provides the voice of a family-man traveling dentist on Nickelodeon's cartoon comedy Glenn Martin, DDS.
But it's not all middle-aged malaise for the Connecticut-raised comedian, who got his break on SNL in 1986 and stayed on for nine years. Like many of the popular late-night show's veterans, Nealon, now 57, has pursued a regular stand-up comedy career in addition to making cameos all over television as well as in popular comedy films.
As he performs for Colorado Springs and Denver audiences this weekend, the latest film in which he appears, Adam Sandler's Just Go With It, opens nationwide. During a 20-minute phone chat, he elaborated on all of the above and more. Here are some excerpts from the transcript:
Indy: Was it a tough decision to leave SNL, and why did you?
Kevin Nealon: It wasn't a tough decision, really. I'd done my time there. And I was leaving to do a sitcom called Champs ... I was so lackadaisical about being on the show that it wasn't a rush anymore. In fact, I came to sketches with food in my mouth still from the craft service table. I'd still be cleaning food out of my teeth with my tongue as I'm delivering my lines and then I'd go back to my dressing room where my friends were making margaritas and the TV had something else on.
Indy: Did you [and Dana Carvey, who played Hans] ever meet Arnold Schwarzenegger?
KN: Oh yeah, he came on Saturday Night Live and did a sketch with Hans and Franz, and then after that he used us a lot to help promote his bodybuilding competitions. He flew us to a couple of places, and Dana and I had to wear the Hans and Franz outfits and it was very uncomfortable and kind of an inconvenience, but you can't say no to Arnold. We became his bitches after a while.
Indy: Tell us about your character Adon in Just Go With It.
KN: I believe him to be a Middle Eastern man, who sells printers and ink cartridges, probably. But he's a plastic surgery junkie. Adam plays a plastic surgeon, and I'm constantly wanting him to do more plastic surgery on me ... I'm begging him, saying, "Please, two calf implants. I'd like two calf implants." He says no. "OK, just one calf implant. One calf implant."
Indy: How do you like doing voice-over on Glenn Martin, DDS versus live acting?
KN: The great thing about my job is, I get to do a lot of different things ... so it keeps me interested in everything. Glenn Martin is a lot of fun ... We're working with some very funny writers. I think the show is very underrated. I think a lot of people haven't found it because it's on Nick at Nite. But it's a real edgy show, right along the vein as The Simpsons and Family Guy.
Indy: How has the medical marijuana era and greater accessibility affected Weeds' premise? Is a black-market dealer on the run still realistic, even for a black comedy?
KN: There are so many medical marijuana outlets now, more than Starbucks here in California. And they always seem to be located next to a strip club or bail bondsman. I'm not really sure if anybody that really needs it medically is using it. But I think as long as it's illegal it won't really have an effect on our show, because such a small percentage of people actually get it through medical marijuana clinics.
Indy: Given your role on Weeds as a one-time city councilman, plus the careers of fellow SNL alums Al Franken and Dennis Miller, have you considered going into politics?
KN: Oh no, I could never do that. I'm deep enough into show business now. That's even a further level of show business: politics.
Indy: Your first full-length stand-up special, Now Hear Me Out, debuted in 2009. Why did you wait so long to do one?
KN: I did a half-hour Comedy Central special eight or nine years ago. But I never did an hour special because I was like a painter with a painting, never thinking that my material was quite ready yet. But then I kinda realized, with age, that it'll never be perfect as far as I'm concerned.
Indy: Your blog says you hope to generate enough material on your current tour for another special this fall. Do you write better on the road? And how much do you improv?
KN: A lot of my material is generated on stage. I'll go off on a tangent and just kinda talk about something. And to me, it's a little bit easier writing on stage than it is off stage. I try to improv as much as I can ... you have to take chances and risks, and that's what makes the job exciting instead of doing the same material every night.
Indy: Does this show we'll see have a particular thematic groundwork?
KN: It depends on the direction I take when I'm on stage. A lot of it is observational, absurd outlooks on life. A lot of it is what's going on in my life right now. Like, I've started meditating. And it's not really for me, I think, because my meditation turns to worrying. I start worrying about stuff. I think it's probably because of my mantra, which is: "Oooooh Nooooo."
Indy: You promote several animal-related charities such as PETA on your website, and you've been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years. Do you get much material out of that on stage?
KN: I used to do material on it. One of my earlier jokes was: You know, I grew up in Connecticut, and one time my parents went away and my neighbor gave me a live lobster, and I didn't know how to cook it. So I put it in a pot of boiling water, and slammed the lid on, and after a few seconds I felt guilty. So I took it out — it was still alive, you know, a little groggy, you know how you feel when you get out of a hot shower or tub. But it was then that I decided that everything had a right to live. So that night, I grabbed the lobster, jumped on my bicycle, drove to the woods and set him free.