Comedian Kevin Nealon comes to Beaver Creek on Sunday
BEAVER CREEK — When Kevin Nealon turned 60, he decided it was time get serious.
“I started to take more chances. … I thought, rehearsals are over, it’s time to start doing things in life and not just talking about them or thinking about them,” he said. “I wish I did that when I turned 30, but I needed to live my life first.”
Putting himself out there might seem like an odd goal for an actor known for creating memorable characters such as The Subliminal Man and anchoring “Weekend Update” during his stint on “Saturday Night Live,” or trolling the waters of marijuana in America in the edgy Showtime series “Weeds.”
But it stands to reason that even the most diverse career can still leave a few stones unturned. So Nealon decided to take the bull by the horns and really start making a plan to maximize his potential. Like the decision last July to start taking piano lessons.
“Somebody said to me, ‘why now’? But it’s like, well, I don’t have much time left,” he said with a laugh. “Plus my teacher is a 28-year-old and I can boss him around — no, there’s only two flats in this scale, don’t worry about the others.”
Or there’s tackling his long-time goal of writing, directing and starring in a feature-length film. Nealon is currently looking for investors for the film, which he’s hoping to start shooting in June.
“It’s about a couple trying to conceive and the wife invites her larger-than-life gay mother and her partner to move in with them,” he said. “She’s this fertility specialist from the South, and it turns my world upside down.”
He’s also entered the realm of the talking heads as a guest on The Howard Stern Show and made a trio of appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher, once holding his own on a panel that included Donald Trump’s now-spokesperson Kellyanne Conway.
It’s all part of his new now-or-never approach to life.
“So my plan is happening,” Nealon said.
In 1985, Nealon really didn’t have a plan. He was working the stand-up circuit, doing a few commercials and making appearances on talk shows such as “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and “Late Night with David Letterman,” when he got his first big TV break.
“I’d never been able to get an audition for ‘Saturday Night Live,’ that was going out to guys from The Groundlings or Second City or people who had high-powered agents,” he said. “Dana Carvey was selected, and he recommended me and a couple of other people. I auditioned and they liked me and offered me a job from there.”
Nealon was contracted as a featured player, guaranteeing him seven episodes, but he kept showing up and getting airtime, which landed him a full-time job the following season.
“I ended up doing that show for nine seasons and I loved it,” he said. “I kind of got used to the pace of it. I realized it wasn’t a sprint, more of a marathon, and that killed people in the show, coming up with something every week. I understood how the show worked and I was very comfortable there. I kind of got it.”
Among the work that followed was a string of roles in films with “Saturday Night Live” co-star Adam Sandler, including “Happy Gilmore” and “The Wedding Singer,” a couple of sitcom pilots that didn’t go very far, a Hans and Frans musical movie that never came to fruition and a few stand-up comedy specials for Showtime.
When the script for “Weeds” fell into his lap, Nealon thought it was just another stoner comedy. But he gave it a read and the character of Doug Wilson seemed to fit. He played the pot-smoking, smart-mouthed accountant for eight seasons.
“‘Saturday Night Live’ is such a well-oiled machine and they’ve been doing it for over 40 years now; it’s a matter of writing the sketches and putting them on,” Nealon said. “‘Weeds’ was a whole kind of different speed from that: much slower and playing the same character every week.
“I got to explore that character and enjoyed the evolution. … I would shoot two days a week, going to 1 or 2 in the morning. It was scripted, and it was exciting, too, in a different way.”
Now, he’s entered a new realm of his career, balancing work on the sitcom “Man with a Plan” opposite Matt LeBlanc with spending time with his 10-year-old son, Gable, and occasionally hitting the road for a few stand-up shows, like the one Sunday at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
“I’m trying to be more of a trailblazer with my comedy,” he said. “I’m more selective with my dates, so when I go it’s because I want to be there, and I try to touch on some of the local things and I try to leave the audience always wanting more.
“Which is why I only do like five minutes.”