WASHINGTON — From “King of Queens” to “Hitch,” Kevin James knows how to make us laugh.
This weekend, the actor and comedian brings his stand-up routine to Warner Theatre on Saturday, just days before his sitcom “Kevin Can Wait” returns to CBS on Monday night.
“We’ve got a little break in the show, so I’m excited to come down and do stand-up,” James told WTOP. “D.C. has always been an awesome, awesome place to go. … They might be a little more up to date on things and a little more cultured in certain ways, but it doesn’t prohibit them from laughing and having a good time. I always have a good time there.”
James will hone new material for his upcoming Netflix special to be taped in late October.
“I don’t know exactly when it’s going to air or what it’s going to be called,” James said. “We’re putting it together now. That’s why I’m excited to come down to D.C. to test stuff out.”
Just because the show is in Washington D.C. doesn’t mean it’s filled with politics.
“It’s all more observational type stuff … rather than get political and all that nonsense,” James said. “Hopefully people can take a break from their lives and have fun. Laugh it up!”
After that, his sitcom “Kevin Can Wait” returns for Season 2 on Monday night on CBS.
“I play a retired police officer with three kids really just wondering if I’m going to be able to enjoy my retirement,” James said. “It was okay for Season 1, but it just didn’t feel weighty enough. You kind of run low on story ideas when that’s the case, so it was just kind of, ‘Oh, is he going to be able to drink beer and go to a baseball game? Boy, I’m really concerned.'”
So, CBS convinced executive producer James to shake things up by killing off his on-screen wife Donna (Erinn Hayes) and replacing her with his former “King of Queens” co-star Leah Remini, who appeared in last season’s two-part finale as the wise-cracking cop Vanessa.
“When everybody collectively saw how Leah and Kevin were together in those last couple episodes, there was an undeniable spark there,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl recently explained to the Television Critics Association. “Kevin, the studios and the network all got together and wanted to keep that magic and chemistry going forward.”
Either way, James thinks the change will move the show in a funnier direction.
“We’ve got some big changes,” James said. “We get to take the show in a different direction. I go back into the workforce, so it really opens up the avenue for a lot of comedy, which we really needed. … We’ve changed things up with a lot of twists and turns in the second season. It just gets better and better because it opens it up in a huge way and it gives a lot of places for comedy and I get to work with Leah Remini again, who’s absolutely the greatest.”
Remini has been busy doing her exposing the inner workings of scientology in her Emmy-winning informational docu-series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” (2017).
“She’s doing such a great thing on that show,” James said. “This is a nice break from that to do what she’s always been born to do: just make people laugh. She’s so great at that. It’s nice for her because it’s such a switch-up. She’s so engrossed in the other thing — obviously she’s doing really great, she won the Emmy and all that, and that’s exciting — it’s just nice to take a break and not flex those muscles and just kind of work on the comedy now for a little bit.”
Indeed, James’ chemistry with Remini was beloved on “King of Queens” (1998-2007).
“She really is great,” James said. “It’s just a comfort, being able to trust someone. When you can trust somebody, you can try different things. If you fail, it’s not a big deal and someone will pick you up. It honestly allows you to do fun, crazy stuff. It’s a safety net. You can also just trust that you can bounce pass to them and [they’ll create] something funnier than you even thought you could do. It’s upping your game. She ups my game. I’m excited she’s there.”
While Remini upped his game to an Emmy nomination for “King of Queens,” the show’s success launched James into a film career with the slapstick comedy “Paul Bart: Mall Cop” (2009), the social statement “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” (2007) and the romantic comedy “Hitch” (2005), playing Albert Brennaman across Will Smith and Eva Mendes.
“[‘Hitch’] was my first one really,” James said. “[Smith] was so great during the filming of that. I learned so much from him. When you’re a big movie star like he is, a lot of people might be threatened and they don’t give the new guy a chance, but he was the absolute opposite. He gave me every opportunity and just kept building upon that. The part didn’t even start that big, as big as it was. It just kept building every day, which I’m definitely grateful for.”
Click here for more on the Warner Theatre show. Listen to our full chat with Kevin James below:
WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Kevin James (Full Interview)