It’s a big weekend in the nation’s capital for fans of the “Weekend Update” segments on Saturday Night Live.
Current hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che hit the DAR Constitution Hall on Friday night, but former host Kevin Nealon wants to remind you that he’s simultaneously playing the D.C. Comedy Loft Friday through Sunday.
“I’m gonna go see them,” Nealon told WTOP.
“That sounds a lot better than my show. I’ll be at the back of their theater doing my act, so if people want to listen to them they can turn to them, or they can turn around and listen to my act. No, those guys are great, but I’m more experienced. They’re just young lads, I’ve been in the business for a while, so I know the audience and I can feel it out. Where they’re going, it’s not as intimate as where I am.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953, Nealon grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, watching legendary comedians on TV.
“I used to follow a lot of comics on the talk shows,” Nealon said.
“I would highlight when they were going to be on and I would make sure I was home to watch them. Steve Martin actually was one of them, Albert Brooks, Andy Kaufman, those were the three that really influenced me — and I got to meet all of them eventually, so that was really cool. They’re all very unique, they’re not your typical standup, they’re really unique and original.”
In 1984, Nealon got his big break as he appeared on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”
“As a standup comic, that is the bar you want to reach,” Nealon said. “Once you did that show, it kind of validated you as a standup comic. Since doing that, it’s really been the highlight of my career as far as I’m concerned, more so than ‘Saturday Night Live.’ … That was just a thrill. I’ve never been floating so high after something like that.”
Most viewers got to know Nealon on “SNL,” joining the cast in 1986 thanks to a recommendation by his friend and roommate, Dana Carvey, who was renting the apartment above the garage in the house that Nealon lived in.
“Lorne Michaels, the creator of the show, was asking Dana if he knew anybody,” Nealon said.
“They were looking for a guy like Chevy Chase, kind of a tall guy and kind of funny. Dana said, ‘I know a guy.’ … They flew me in for an audition. I had never done sketch comedy before, I didn’t do characters or impressions, but Lorne was looking for a chemistry in the cast. I had been dating Jan Hooks and Dana was my friend … so it all meshed and we all synced.”
In 1987, Nealon and Carvey created two of the most memorable characters in “SNL” history, pumping us up as Hans and Franz, a pair of macho bodybuilders who spoke in thick Austrian accents à la Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Dana and I were on tour with Dennis Miller … and I saw Arnold on some interview show,” Nealon said.
“It was just funny how he talked, so Dana and I kept mimicking him for the whole rest of the tour. Right before the following season, our second season of the show, we came up with these two defensive, pathetic body builders that were so insecure. They had never lifted a weight in their lives and they just ridiculed everybody for being losers.”
While Nealon created other memorable characters, from Mr. Subliminal to Mr. No Depth Perception, he became best known as the anchor of the fake-news segment “Weekend Update.” Playing the role after Dennis Miller and before Norm Macdonald, Nealon spit his signature signoff: “I’m Kevin Nealon, and that’s news to me.”
“Everybody brings their own personality to the ‘Weekend Update,'” Nealon said.
“I was playing more of a straight newscaster like Chevy Chase, it was more tongue-in-cheek. Not too long after that, people almost started doing their standup comedy as ‘Weekend Update.’ It wasn’t so much a newscaster, it was more someone dressed like a newscaster … which is kind of what it’s like now on a lot of shows, where it’s lots of opinions, more lightweight.”
His “SNL” connections got him cast in several Adam Sandler movies, namely “Happy Gilmore” (1996), in which he played a chatty golfer who tries to instruct others how to “feel the flow” and “do the bull dance.”
“I improvised that as we were all standing around and we just worked with that: ‘Harness the good, block the bad, feel the flow, Happy,'” Nealon said.
“People love that one, they love ‘Grandma’s Boy’ where I played Mr. Cheezle, so everybody’s got their favorites. There’s a lot of ‘Weeds’ people out there, they loved my character, Doug Wilson. … And I did a little hiking show called ‘Hiking with Kevin’ where I hike with a different celebrity every week.”
These days, he’s touring with his standup routine until the Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strikes end.
“I definitely hope it ends soon,” Nealon said. “It was a big surprise to me because I didn’t know other people were making more money than I was in Hollywood.”
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