Kevin Nealon: "I Think a Lot of Comedians are Frustrated Musicians"

You didn't have to be a total comedy nerd kid to revel in the jokes of Kevin Nealon and, arguably, the finest Saturday Night Live cast in the late eighties and early nineties. You just had to have cool parents. But it's likely that watching Nealon dressed as Franz or reading his version of the news on "Weekend Update" made you into a joke junkie. 

We were able to speak with Nealon, who indadvertedly raised us for about nine years from 11:30 to 1 o'clock each Saturday night. Nealon joked with us about fake pot, talked banjo, and even name-dropped a Fort Lauderdale vegetarian hotspot. 
New Times: I saw on Twitter that Danny Ferrington made a guitar for you. I know you play guitar and banjo. Can you tell me about this instrument?

Kevin Nealon: It's an acoustic guitar, six-string. It's a beautiful guitar. He's a real craftsman. He made guitars for a lot of my friends, including Eric Idle and Steve Martin. And I have a few other acoustic guitars, so this one I wanted really special. I designed the fretboard for the inlays, so I have my initial there, my wife's initial, and my son's initial, and a bunch of swans on the rest of it. 

Do you have an attachment to swans in anyway? 

No, I just think that they look nice, kind of elegant on the guitar. 

Did you learn to play guitar first or banjo first? 

Guitar first. And then I saw that movie Deliverance a long time ago, I liked that song in there. So, I wanted to get a banjo and learn to play that. 

You're an animal rights activist. How do you chose which orgs to support?

I'm not really an activist. I used to do more of that work back in the eighties or nineties. Now, I support more local groups. I help out when I can with PETA, mostly animal groups around LA, like the Amanda Foundation, Much Love, Best Friends, ASPCA. 

You're still a vegetarian. Do you have a favorite dish? 

There's actually a great vegetarian restaurant in Fort Lauderdale called Sublime that I love. Nanci Alexander runs it. It's one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants. 

Who's one of the most interesting people you've ever played golf with? 

Every year, I play up in Lake Tahoe at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. I've played with a lot of athletes up there. Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley. Probably the funniest time I went golfing was with Adam Sandler when we were filming Happy Gilmore, we went out on our day off to go golfing, and I hit a fairway iron, and he was about 150 yards ahead of me, and the ball went right at him and he tried to run away from it, but it smacked him right in the back. 

You have that role on Weeds. Weed is a hot topic. Do you have any thoughts on legalization? 

I think it should be legalized for only medicinal purposes and recreational purposes, nothing professional. 

What's going on with the show? 

We wrapped up this past August, eight seasons of it. And what we smoke on that show is honeyrose herb. It's not pot. But it still has a little kick, cause we get it from the honey rose herb cartel in Colombia. 

Can you tell us about the upcoming film Walk of Shame?

It's about an unlikely helicopter traffic reporter, and Elizabeth Banks is in it and she's trying to get to a really important newscaster interview at a certain time and she's up against all these obstacles. 

Did you go on any helicopter rides? 

Yeah, I had to fly in a helicopter over L.A. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I was a passenger. They had cameras set up kind of like Taxicab Confessions

Did you have to really act so that you didn't look terrified?

Yeah, that was probably the most difficult acting job, with delivering lines in a helicopter. We took off from the roof a building, which adds double to the scariness of it all. It's a small helicopter and I have really long legs, so I was cramped in the front, pressed up against the glass. 

Were the skies clear? 

It was actually a beautiful, clear day. It had been very windy the day before that and that morning. I'd been very concerned because it was so windy. It all worked out perfectly, and there was a very nice view from that height. The Hollywood sign, from the mountain, I'd never been able to see it before, that's how clear it was. 

You also made a Lance Armstrong joke on Twitter (When all is said and done, Lance Armstrong is still the fastest out of all the cyclists that dope. #LanceArmstrong) are you a big fan, or any thoughts on that? 

I think that steroids should be legalized only for medicinal purposes and recreational purposes, but nothing professional. It's unfortunate that all this has been going on and how commonplace it became where he thought there wasn't anything wrong with doing it. 

Do you have a favorite SNL cast, one that defines the show for you? The "golden years?"

I like the year that we came on the show. Originally, it was the most inspirational for me to watch. What we did was fun, because it was a great cast. Really fun people on the show. And to live in New York City was amazing, to work with all these hosts and musicians each week. I got to meet Paul McCartney when he played "Lady Madonna," all these icons that I grew up watching. Like Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon. It was amazing. 

Do you still listen to those musicians today or do you listen to new music? 

Yeah, I like Jason Mraz, I like Dave Wilcox. I like a lot of country music. I like Brad Paisley, Clint Black, Rascal Flatts. 

It seems a lot of comedians make music. Do you think there's a link between the two? 
Yeah, I think a lot of comedians are frustrated musicians and vice versa. It's amazing how many comedians know how to play an instrument. I think maybe that's what they started out doing and comedy came a little easier to them. 

Comedy seems a lot harder to do. Music can be more technical at times. Do you think comedy is technical? 

I think there's a certain part of it that's technical, as far as the core of it might be technical, but you have to make it your own personal instrument. 

What can we expect from your standup? 

My standup is very conversational. Lately, it's based on my life. I think the longer you do standup, the more personal it becomes. You start evolving. Mine is more a reflection of my personal life, but of course it's exaggerated and spun a little bit. 

I talk about some of my fears, I have a Showtime special called Whelmed... But Not Overly, and I kind of deal with that type of area. I talk about getting a flu shot. I haven't gotten one in a couple of years. I wonder if it's too late to get last year's flu shot. 

It just seems to me that these flu shots are too available now. You go to any CVS store, or Walgreen, and you can get a shot there, or at Target. I'm wondering who trains these people. If they wrap a belt around your arm, then you have to get out of there, it's not a good sign. I think like anybody that's even shopping at CVS is qualified to give you a shot now. 

Kevin Nealon. 8 and 10:30 p.m., February 8 and 9. Fort Lauderdale Improv, 5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Call 954-981-5653.

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