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Comedy scene: The Zen of Kevin Nealon and needing space

Howie Nave
Special to the Tribune
Howie Nave with Kevin Nealon (right) at a past American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament.
Provided

One of my favorite comedians since I’ve been in Tahoe is probably Kevin Nealon.

Okay, Rocky LaPorte is a best friend, and a great comedian, but I have to admit Nealon is well, a Renaissance man when it comes to comedy.

He’s also a well-known actor, writer, author and more recently, a caricature artist. Oh yeah, he’s a golfer too and only pretends not to be that good just for the laughs.

He once called Tahoe ‘home’ as he had a place at the top of Kingsbury Grade for years but because of his demanding career couldn’t spend as much time up here as he wanted to.

He had a nine-year run as a cast member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live (1986-1995) creating some of the show’s most memorable characters including ‘Subliminal Man’ and ‘Hans and Franz’ (with fellow SNL alum Dana Carvey).

After leaving SNL, Nealon had a second career in acting appearing in a plethora of films, many of them with another SNL alumni, Adam Sandler. Nealon starred alongside Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the film, “Just Go with It,” a film about a man who enlists the help of his receptionist and her kids to land the woman of his dreams.

He and Sandler also teamed up in “Eight Crazy Nights,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Happy Gilmore” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.”

For five years Nealon hosted TBS’s Funniest Commercials that highlighted the most outrageous and ridiculous commercials from around the world. Nealon received critical acclaim for his role in the Showtime series “Weeds” (where I interviewed him on the set in his trailer a few years back) and until recently, he was a regular on the TV sitcom, “Man with a Plan” that starred Matt LeBlanc that ran from 2016 and ended this year.

Speaking of “The Virus” I asked Nealon how he was coping all this time being sheltered in place.

“I’m lucky to be quarantined with my family because we all get along but I don’t care if you’re with Jesus 24 hours a day, you’re going to get irritable toward each other you know what I mean?” he said. “And I’ve heard that from everybody. I mean, I love my family but I need some ‘alone time’ man.”

Like many of us having no more ‘live’ audiences we’ve had to resort to going online communicating outside the house but Nealon wasn’t doing any comedy online.

“I’ve done a lot of Zooms but not performing,” he said. “I’ve just been doing ‘Mafia’ and lots of pitch meetings and writing sessions. I haven’t done stand up since I worked in Tacoma back in February. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without doing stand up.”

Nealon has been spending a lot of time hiking and in fact hosts a popular YouTube show called, “Hiking with Kevin” where, as he puts it, “I post a new hike every Thursday with some of the most out of shape celebrities (but not all)!”

Sometimes he will venture out by himself and just soak everything in.

“You know it’s weird I was hiking in the mountains over Santa Monica today in Los Angeles and it was so clear I was looking out toward LAX and I didn’t see any planes taking off or landing,” he said. “Usually they’re backed up or landing and the air was so clear too. I looked back and saw views that I’ve never seen before. I saw the ocean and Catalina Island and I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen that before.’”

Nealon’s not sure if he’ll be a part of this year’s American Century Championship at Edgewood as it’s obviously been a weird first half.

In the past when he played in the tournament, before coming up he would lay out each of his clubs on the bed and talk to them to see which one was going to be the one that would make him shin3. But that talk was a long time ago as he usually doesn’t start practicing until maybe a week before the tournament.

I mean, why exhaust yourself during those practice rounds when you can save it all up for the real deal when televised ya know? Since being in lock down mode Nealon has found other things to do around the house.

“There are so many chores I’m doing now than I never did before. I’m bathing myself now as those people won’t come by anymore because of the shutdown,” he said. “I do a lot of hiking like I said and I try to go for a drive everyday. You gotta get out of the house and you have to have some alone time. Those are the three things: get some fresh air, take a drive, go somewhere and get some alone time.”

I’m hoping that he’ll write another book. Back in 2008 he published a book chronicling his experiences during his wife’s pregnancy from the male perspective called, “Yes, You’re Pregnant, But What About Me?” That was a very good read.

“I’ve been writing TV shows but not stand up,” he said. “I took my stand up notes out of my pocket from my last gig in February and threw them on my desk in a pile and I really haven’t looked at them since then and I haven’t even thought about stand up.”

I have a feeling though the stage and the laughter of a ‘live’ audience will lure him back up. In late 2009, Nealon’s first one hour stand up special, “Kevin Nealon: Now Hear Me Out!” aired on Showtime to rave reviews so it’s time.

For now though he will be donning his mask when out in public but when hiking with no one around, he’ll take in the fresh air.

And his thoughts on the impending ‘new normal’ just around the corner?

“We’ll get through it, Howie. It’s all going to be fine. You know it’s really a good time to reflect and have some introspection about what you’re doing in your life and in that way it’s kind of helpful.”

Very Zen.


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