Center Presents: Kevin Nealon
The Palladium // Friday, Apr 7, 8 p.m. ET
Emmy and SAG-nominated actor, comedian and author Kevin Nealon is best known for his nine-year stint on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” where he anchored the “Weekend Update” segment and helped cement its popularity. He has received critical acclaim for his work on the Showtime series “Weeds,” and he more recently co-starred on the CBS comedy series “Man with a Plan.” Nealon’s film appearances have included “Anger Management,” “Eight Crazy Nights,” “The Wedding Singer” and “Happy Gilmore,” and he produces and hosts the YouTube series “Hiking with Kevin,” interviewing his celebrity friends on hikes throughout the country.
Purchase your tickets at thecenterpresents.org.
It was a bucket list interview for me. I’ve enjoyed the comedic talent of Kevin Nealon since his days on SNL. His timing and his energy are always on point, and his other artistic talent as a caricature artist is equally as impressive. If you haven’t already picked up a copy of Nealon’s book, “I Exaggerate: My Brushes with Fame,” I highly recommend that you do! This gorgeously illustrated project is a collection of full-color caricatures and funny, endearing personal essays about Nealon’s famous friends.
Janelle Morrison: Let’s talk about your book. I don’t think a lot of people realize how gifted you are. I’d like to learn more about when you realized you had this drawing talent and how you’ve been nurturing it all these years.
Kevin Nealon: I started drawing when I was just a kid. I love just doodling mostly, and throughout high school I would doodle and draw, but I never took a course. As I got older and was on SNL, as a matter of fact, I would sketch people sitting across the table reading over the [SNL] sketches. And if I wasn’t in the sketch, I would sketch whoever it was … [Chris] Farley, Dana Carvey, the host or whoever it was. I never really finished these caricatures of people — they were just quick pencil sketches. Then, a year or so before the pandemic, I was following different [caricature] artists on Instagram. I started emulating those people, and during the pandemic, I immersed myself in it.
JM: Your caricatures are really good! You capture the essence of your subject, and it’s really cool!
KN: Thank you. I used to love watching caricature artists at carnivals and fairs or wherever. The people I was with would get bored and go off to ride the rides, and I’d continue to watch these artists sketch people. As a kid, we lived in Germany for four years, and we would go to a lot of different places on vacation like Paris and Greece. My parents had their caricatures drawn by some Parisian artist. It was different from anything that I had seen. Those pastels hung on my wall in bedroom, side by side, and every night I’d go to bed and just kind of study them. That was like a 15-year study right there.
JM: I encourage people to go buy this book and to follow you on Instagram because it’s really cool stuff. And speaking of cool stuff, you — like many creatives post-2020 — are utilizing different mediums and technologies to produce unique and fun material outside of your known wheelhouses. For instance, your YouTube series, “Hiking with Kevin,” is a stitch! You’re actually doing my job, interviewing your friends and colleagues while hiking and enjoying fresh air. I love your “hikes” with all these various talented people, and because it’s not over produced, it’s so much more relatable. Tell me more about this project.
KN: Thank you. I’m glad you like that too. Well, my interviewing techniques are not as good as yours … all I can do is ask random and silly questions most of the time, but this started because I like to be outside to walk and hike. There’s a lot of canyons around L.A. to do that. I was hiking one day with friend and actor Matthew Modine. We’ve been buddies for a long time, and I called him and asked if he wanted to go for a hike. The hike was pretty steep, and we were both kind of out of breath. It was really kind of funny, and I thought we should be recording this and make it like a talk show. I posted that on Twitter and then started doing these little two-minute segments from different people. After a year or so, I expanded it and started a YouTube channel and made it like 15–19 minutes each segment.
JM: I was thinking about this the other night during the Oscars and would love your take on comedians nowadays and the future of stand-up comedy. I feel like the environment has changed dramatically since I first became familiar with you and your work. I grew up in the ’80s when some of the world’s finest comedians walked the earth. Currently, I feel like most comedians are either playing it too safe or they’re trying too hard to get noticed, streamed, shared, whatever. Since your currently touring, what have your experiences been like, and what are your thoughts?
KN: Well, it’s very important for people to laugh. It’s interesting, when I started doing [stand-up] in the ’80s, there weren’t a lot of comics. It was more of a novelty, and a lot of people had never been to a comedy club. Now, it’s very commonplace, and there’s a lot more comedians. Comedy is so subjective. I see a lot of comics out there, and I shake my head, thinking, “Wow, how are they able to keep doing this?” And they’re making a living and people are laughing, so it’s funny to those people but maybe not to you or me. I do think the outlook is good for the future of comedy. There’s a lot of clever comedians out there, and it’s evolving all the time. When I started out, it was about setting up the punchline, and now it’s more about “attitude” and not so much about crafting jokes.
JM: What do you think has changed the most in stand-up routines?
KN: I don’t know if it’s a younger [generation] thing, but a lot of [stand-up] is so crass and vulgar. I don’t know if they’re going for the shock value, but there isn’t any [shock] value anymore because there’s so many people doing it. I like a good dirty joke as much as anyone, but it’s hard when I’m performing somewhere and they have an opener that’s really crass and it sets the tone for the rest of the night, you know what I mean?
JM: I, along with many others, are going to enjoy you when you come out to Carmel, Indiana. And I don’t want to give anything away that you’re going to say, but what can people expect from you?
KN: My comedy is always evolving, and it’s very conversational. I think a lot of people have told me that I’m very sensible. And I will say that even though I question the profane comics, my comedy has gotten a little dark in areas because it’s the things that I’m thinking about now and what’s in my head. I think the audience will have a good time … I know they’ll have a good time.