Kevin Nealon on his new album, being willfully naive and more! (Laughspin interview)

By | May 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm | No comments | feature slider, Interviews | Tags: , , , ,

Since the series finale of Showtime’s Emmy-winning pot-themed series Weeds, we’ve seen a lot less of Nevin Nealon on our small screens. It’s bittersweet, of course, for comedy fans. But life after eight seasons of playing Doug Wilson finds the 59-year-old Saturday Night Live favorite as creative and prolific as ever, having just released his stellar new album and DVD Whelmed…But Not Overly. And now he’s in South Africa shooting a new comedy flick with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore and he’ll be joining Dennis Miller and Dana Carvey onstage later this year for a live stand-up SNL reunion show of sorts. I recently chatted with Nealon about the new album, family life and much, much more. Check it out below!

You have a son who’s six now, right?
Yeah, I have a six year old. Do you have any kids?

Yep, I have two boys— four years old and almost two.
It’s a lot of work, right? You spaced them out well, though. That’s great.

It’s pretty intense.
You kind of have to give your wife a break– you gotta go back and forth, do the tag-team thing or you go crazy. It’ll get easier for you. Because ours is six and its gotten easier for us. Because he’s in school a lot of the day and you have this newfound time that you’ve totally forgotten about.

And he’s at the point now where you can have a real conversation, right?
Yeah, you can communicate now. You’re almost there. Try to hang in there for another two years.

I’ll try. Thanks for the pep talk. Do you guys plan on having another one?
We talk about it. We kind of go back and forth. You did it right. You have that good gap.

This morning my four year old said he can’t wait to have a sister.
Puts a lot of pressure on you guys. Where do you live?

Just outside of New York City, where it’s too damn expensive to live.
I remember when I was doing SNL, Lorne Michaels said to me, ‘I’ll make sure you get a good place, a comfortable place.’ And this was all kind of new to me. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods in New York. The last place I lived was the most expensive. It was a three bedroom with four fireplaces and a dining room with high ceilings and a kitchen. It was down in the West Village and it was $4,000 a month and I thought that was outrageous.

Yeah, that place would easily be 10 grand a month now.
I also rented a place right by the Meatpacking District. That’s before it all went hip and retro. The meatpacking trucks would come rumbling by my house and it was all kind of built up over the water so the house would kind of shake a little bit. I was so used to living in California that I thought they were earthquakes. And you had all the transvestites hanging out on the street when I was getting home after the show— and so that was a delay for me getting home.

What’s the biggest challenge right now as a father?
Just not missing anything.

And how do you deal with it?
I think you just have to spend more quality time with your kid. When I’m on the road and missing him, I say, ‘Oh, I need to spend more time with him.’ It’s like when I go golfing. I’m dying to go golfing. I don’t get to go that often. And when I finally get out there and golf, I think to myself, ‘I should be home working. I should be doing something else.’

Right, therapists would say you have to live in the moment and you can’t worry about everything else because you’ll never be able to enjoy anything.
If I was having a good game, I probably wouldn’t be thinking about anything else. But if I’m shanking the ball and not doing well, I’ll think to myself, ‘Well this is a waste of time, I should be doing something else.’

Do you and your wife split up duties?
I think it’s unspoken. As the years go by, you start falling into a groove of what you’re comfortable doing and what you’re good at. I wake up and make him breakfast and then my wife gets up about 15-20 minutes later and starts making his lunch and makes sure he gets dressed and makes sure he has peppermint spray in his hair so he doesn’t get lice; that’s her big thing.

I find bathing my kids so stressful. I find no joy in it.
Yeah, I think if it were left up to the guys, they’d never bathe the kids. They would look like Pigpen all the time. But women like to be neat and they like clean hair and good smelling babies. They would do it every 20 minutes if they could.

Your new album Whelmed…But Not Overly is now out. It comes with both a CD and DVD. Do you have a preference when you’re consuming recorded comedy?
That’s a good question. I guess it depends on the comic. If they’re a really physical comic – a guy like Louie Anderson or even Louie C.K. – I think with a lot of their material you get a little something extra when you watch it, because of their facial expressions and their pauses. But I like listening to a CD. It’s like a book; the book is usually always better than the movie, because you can use your imagination. I think it’s a more intimate experience.

Part of the artwork on the CD/DVD is a photo of a man hiding in your bushes, spying on your with binoculars. Is that a reference to the Pellicano List? [see ed. note at bottom]
I think it’s a reference to being not overwhelmed, but whelmed with life and paying attention to it. I never really thought about the Pellicano List, but I guess that could be a good. I’m so naïve about a lot of things. I don’t recognize they’re happening. I also have this kind of emotional thing… and Justin Kirk from Weeds said this and I had to agree with it. People were asking him if he was sad that Weeds was ending. He said, ‘I don’t feel things when they’re happening—it’s not until later.’ I don’t think I’m that numb to that type of stuff. But I think the photo on the album is more of a reference to the things that are happening around me, that I’m not taking into consideration.

What do you mean when you say you’re naïve about things around you?
I don’t think it’s a pure naivety. I think it’s more of a willing naivety. I don’t let things get to me. So I don’t really recognize them. I kind of compartmentalize. You see people who have tons of stuff going on — like Obama or any head of a company – and you wonder how they deal with all this stuff. So I think they just have to compartmentalize and not let stuff get to them, otherwise they’d be curled up in the corner in the fetal position. At least I would be. I remember when I was growing up – I have four siblings – we would do these car trips and somebody would always be fighting, yelling at each other.

My dad would say, ‘Kev, you need to calm down. You can’t be an airline pilot if you’re going to get excited like that.’ I wanted to be an airline pilot at the time. So that was instilled in me, not to get excited. My wife even tells me that. She tells me that I don’t really get excited when something happens. And she’s very dramatic— like when something exciting happens, she’s very demonstrative and I’m just thinking, ‘Ok that’s cool, but why won’t this actually happen.’ It’s kind of sad in a way because I’m not really able to let loose and have a great time with any type of exciting news— or bad news, too.

So it’s good when you’re dealing with the negative, but at the same time, not so great when you’re dealing with the good.
I do get excited. I just don’t show it that much. I don’t jump up and down. A lot of women say that men can’t express their feelings. I need to take a class on how to express my excitement. It would probably entail lessons on yelling ‘woo-hoo!’ in different keys and getting excited and jumping up and down.

And any way you’re a tall guy, what are you like 6’4”?
I’m in the high range between 5’8” and 6’4”. Yeah, I’m about 6’4”. I haven’t measured myself lately. I’m probably going to start going down soon.

It’s creepy when tall people jump up and down.
Yeah, we’re tall enough. We’re in a perpetual state of excitement already. And the other thing I do is when someone comes up to me, I always match their level of excitement and enthusiasm. If they say, ‘Hey, Kevin, how are you doing?,’ I’ll say, ‘Hey how are you, man.’ But if they come in and say, HEY MAN, what’s going on? I haven’t seen you in a long time.’ I’ll say, ‘YEAH, HOW YA DOING?!’ It’s just a built-in regulator on me.

My wife can tell who I’m talking to on the phone, just by my cadence and by my voice and excitement. She knows when I’m talking to my parents or a doctor and it’s the same for her, although she won’t admit it. I can tell when she’s talking to her father or her mother or a friend she hasn’t seen in a while.

You’re turning 60 in November. You look damn good for 59.
Thanks, man. I’m probably rotting on the inside.

Most comedians are.
You see yourself when you walk by a mirror. So you don’t really recognize the aging so much. I went to visit Saturday Night Live last December when I was in town doing Carolines. I went up to Studio 8H that Saturday to see the last few minutes of Martin Short and Paul McCartney. And I was talking to some of the cast members and in person they look so young. They can be my kid, now. You kind of associate them on TV like they’re your age but then when you see them in person you’re like wow, they’re really young an I’m getting really old.

Are you the type of person who gets hung up about age?
You can take two positions on that. You can fight it and hide it. Or you can embrace it and celebrate it. And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to have a big blowout party and invite a ton of people and just have a good time. I’ve always liked taking care of myself. And for me, it’s always been a weight thing. When you get older, your metabolism slows down so you naturally gain weight and for some reason, my goal is to always remain the same weight I was on SNL —which is nearly impossible.

You’re a vegetarian, right?
Yeah, not a vegan but a veggie.

Do you obsess about food?
I’m not obsessed about it. I’m aware of it. I’m conscious of when I’m eating something bad or something good. It’s just second nature to me now. I know what I like and where to get it.

Do you have a workout regiment?
I go through different phases. Because I’m coming up on 60, I want to start working out and be in good shape for when that day arrives for, just as a challenge. I try to do cardio every day— like a half hour to an hour powerwalk around the block. I don’t run anymore. I’ll do the elliptical at the gym— something that’s easy on the knees and the back. I don’t have any knee or back problems, but I don’t want any either. So I do preventative workout routines. And then some weights a couple times a week.

My problem is that I like doing too many things. I play the five-string banjo and the guitar and I like to golf, which I don’t get to do that often and I like to exercise so subsequently I’m not good at any of them really because I’m doing too many things. There’s always someone better than me at whatever it is. I can walk into a room with a bunch of people and if someone takes out a guitar somehow they’ve learned to play better. Same thing with golf. I like to draw and paint. I think I’m happy where I am– otherwise, I think I’d try to be better at all those things.

You are one of the most well adjusted comedians I’ve spoken to in the last eight years.
That’s good news. I’m the comic that will probably explode one day. ‘We never saw it coming with Nealon. He must have been holding it back so much that he finally just went crazy.’

As funny as that would be, I hope it never happens to you.
I don’t think it will. Once you have a family, you have to answer to someone and take responsibility. When you have kids, you really have to think twice about getting angry in a public place or having road rage or going up to someone in a bar if someone pushes you. The first thing you think to do is and run and hide so you can play eventually Pictionary with your family.

You’re filming the movie Blended with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in South Africa. Why South Africa?
I think it has to be for financial reasons— tax breaks and things like that. I didn’t see the original script, but I think they did a lot of re-writes. I think originally it was going to take place at a Sandals resort or something in the Caribbean but they changed it to Africa. There’s a lot of films being shot out there now. It’s about a 20-hour flight out there from Los Angeles.

Is the family coming with you?
Yeah, it’ll be good. The hotel we’re staying in, it’s in Sun City, it’s a big resort made by the guy who built Atlantis in the Bahamas. There are four big hotels, so it’s not really representative of the safari lodge in the middle of Kenya. They have their own ecosystem there. They filter their own water; it’s self sustaining. So we’re going to try to get out of there and see what the real South Africa is like.

What character are you playing in the movie?
I play a guy named Eddie Warnick, and I’m at the resort with my new 23-year-old wife and my 16-year-old son from a previous marriage. My character is very positive– kind of a throw back to the character I played in Happy Gilmore.

And you did another movie recently, Walk of Shame with James Marsden and Elizabeth Banks which comes out later this year.
Yeah, that was fun. Steve Brill directed that. He directed The Wedding Singer and I knew him from there so he asked if I would do this part. It’s a small part. Chopper Steve is my name and I’m a traffic reporter. I had to fly over LA in a little helicopter. All my lines were done from the helicopter.

And you’re doing a bunch of live dates with your Saturday Night Live buddies Dana Carvey and Dennis Miller. How’s that working?
I’m not sure what the lineup is going to be, but we’re each going to do about 25 minutes and then the three of us will come out and do a question and answer thing. We haven’t done this since 1987 when we went on tour after my first year on SNL. We did a pretty extensive tour then, like 30 cities. So we’re not sure what the demand will be like now. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Buy Kevin Nealon’s new album Whelmed…But Not Overly now! Follow him on Twitter at @Kevin_Nealon and check out KevinNealon.com for his stand-up tour schedule.

[ed. note: in 2006, Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano was indicted on charges of racketeering and conspiracy for wiretapping celebrities, including Nealon, who wrote about it for The New York Times. Pellicano was convicted in 2008. ]

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Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.