Although he now calls Los Angeles home, Kevin Nealon sometimes finds himself pining for the East Coast. “My comedy has kind of turned more personal and based on my real life,” says the actor and comedian who grew up in Bridgeport, CT. “It’s always developing. I have been writing a lot in Los Angeles, but I am so excited just to be back out east and see those audiences.”
No surprise Nealon will be heading this way once again when he brings his standup act to Connecticut’s Ridgefield Playhouse on May 4. He is perhaps best known for his role as the wry stoner Doug Wilson on the Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning show Weeds, which ran for eight seasons. Although Nealon doesn’t smoke marijuana himself, he frequents the Colorado comedy scene and doesn’t see harm in the state’s recent legalization. “I was in Colorado just last weekend,” shares Nealon. “There were a lot of pot stores, but nothing has really changed. I did not see anybody on the streets, smoking it.”
Prior to Weeds, Nealon made his first major impact on Saturday Night Live, where he starred for nine years and served as an anchor on the show’s revered “Weekend Update.” Megastars such as Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, and Dennis Miller all performed alongside Nealon during one of the show’s golden ages. The comedian notes that the show is still “really the only place you can go to see actual parody.” Since, Nealon has appeared in dozens of feature films, many alongside friend and neighbor Adam Sandler, including the hits Grandma’s Boy and Billy Madison.
“I see Adam a lot,” says Nealon of Sandler. “Our kids go to the same school, and we live in the same neighborhood. I just did a small part, playing myself in his next film, which is coming out on Netflix, called Sandy Wexler.”
Today, audiences have fallen for Nealon once again as the sharp-tongued Don Burns on CBS’ irreverent comedy Man with a Plan, which stars Friends alum Matt LeBlanc. “It’s been awhile since I have done a multi-camera show on a soundstage with an audience,” says Nealon. “I have always been a fan of Matt LeBlanc, and I loved the script. Matt and I hit it off right away, and they hired me. It’s been great.”
Beyond his work in film and television, hitting the stage for a night of standup remains paramount to the funnyman. “Standup is my passion. It was what I wanted to do, and then the acting was residual from that,” explains Nealon. “When audiences come in [for my standup act], it’s not just people in their 50s and 60s; it is really an eclectic group.”
Nealon feels lucky his schedule of appearances allows him ample time to act, write, and spend time with his family — sometimes simultaneously. “My wife and I just wrote a script that we would like to shoot this summer,” he adds. “And Man With a Plan has a great schedule, especially because I have a family. I am home most of the day, and I get to work on weekends.”
Nevertheless, Nealon still often finds himself balancing the demands of his profession with raising his 10-year-old son, Gable, and finding time to spend with his aforementioned wife, actress Susan Yeagley. After dropping Gable off at school in the early morning, Nealon admits that directly after our 8 a.m. interview, he will be heading into a rehearsal and then returning home in time to pick up his son.
“Fatherhood came pretty naturally,” says the 63-year-old actor with a laugh. “It is something you kind of learn on the go, and nothing can really prepare you for it.” According to Nealon, ski trips with Gable now account for some of his favorite moments away from the camera.
However, comedy wasn’t always in the cards for the celebrated comic. He received a degree in marketing and briefly worked at the Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft. “My parents were always very supportive,” recalls Nealon. “I had brothers and sisters, and my parents always wanted us to pursue our passions. I just went to school to get my degree, so I could have something to fall back on.”
Luckily for us, Nealon never needed a fallback. In fact, the funnyman now views comedy as pretty serious business. “Comedy is really important now, with the current state of affairs,” he muses. “It is a kind of release now, since comics are really saying what they themselves want to hear. For me, it’s fun to perform and get the laughs, but the one thing I miss about SNL is that you don’t have an outlet for topical material, so the clubs take the place of that.”