People in the Niagara Falls area have two chances to see Kevin Nealon next week. He’ll be on the big screen co-starring with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in Blended, or for a more up-close-and-personal look, they can check him out on stage at the Fallsview Casino Resort on May 24.
Best known for his nine-year stint as part of the ensemble cast of Saturday Night Live where he introduced audiences to characters like Subliminal Message Man, the muscle-bound Austrian jock Franz and Mr. No Depth Perception, he was encouraged to make people laugh at an early age by watching comics on television.
“I loved stand-up growing up,” he says. “I used to follow all the stand-ups on TV. I’d highlight when they were going to be on in the TV Guide. Ultimately I decided that would be a great job because I liked telling jokes and I felt kind of an ease with it.”
While honing his craft at legendary Los Angeles comedy club The Improvisation — “I pretty much lived there,” he says — he was encouraged to try acting.
“One of the co-owners said to me, ‘You ought to take acting lessons because one day a casting agent will come into the back of the room, see you and want you to read for their show.’ I had (considered acting) but was embarrassed to say so. I didn’t have any training or anything, so I took acting classes.”
These days he’s a SAG Award ensemble nominee for his work on Weeds, and can be heard doing voice-work shows like American Dad, but his early performances weren’t always so high-profile.
“There was a commercial I did that didn’t require a lot of acting. It was for Nabisco Country Crackers with (country singer) Lynn Anderson. I just had to play the banjo next to her while she fed me crackers. I remember Jay Leno saying, ‘Yeah, saw your commercial. Good for you.’
Then a week later they found copper dust particles in the crackers and had to recall them all so they took the commercial off the air.”
The family comedy Blended is his latest outing with Adam Sandler, whom he has previously appeared with in Little Nicky, Anger Management and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, among others.
“Usually you’re on board if he’s doing something,” Nealon says of his frequent collaborator. “There was one movie I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to be a part of. It was called Grandma’s Boy. It was so lowball and crass. I thought it might be a little embarrassing to be in that one. So
I told Sandler I’d probably pass on it and he called me and said, ‘I really hope you do this because if you don’t do it and it’s a big hit I’ll feel bad, but if you do it and it’s not a big hit, no one is going to see it anyway.’ So I said, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’”