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Monday, July 6, 2015

Jon Lovitz Loves Stand-Up, Acting, and Singing — But Not in That Order

Posted By on Mon, Jul 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Jon Lovitz plays Cobb's Comedy Club July 10-12. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ICM PARTNERS
  • Photo courtesy of ICM Partners
  • Jon Lovitz plays Cobb's Comedy Club July 10-12.

Comedian Jon Lovitz always aspired to become a stand-up comedian. But his dream was deferred by a lie, a career-making stint on Saturday Night Live, turns on TV series The Simpsons, The Critic and NewsRadio and in films such as Big, A League of Their Own and The Wedding Singer. Not too shabby.

But in 2003, he finally fulfilled his goal of joke telling on stage and has been touring ever since — making him one of the few performers to go from acting to stand-up. This year, Lovtiz can be seen in movies Killing Hasselhoff, The Ridiculous 6 and Bark Ranger, as well as headlining numerous comedy shows across the country. SF Weekly chatted with Jon Lovitz about his upcoming Cobb's Comedy Club dates (Friday-Sunday, July 10-12), whether or not he'll finally release a music album and which SNL alum he'll never forget.

What topics are you covering in your current show?

It's really just me and my opinions. I talk about myself and make fun of myself. I play the piano. I sing funny songs. Tell a joke.

Many people don't know that you're quite the singer. You've already performed at Carnegie Hall three
times, sung the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium and the U.S. Open, and dueted with Robbie
Williams on “Well, Did You Evah!”
 Would you ever release an entire album?

Thank you. Well, that would be fun. I never thought of myself as a professional singer, but I practice a lot. I did this show called, Sing Your Face Off, where we had to imitate great singers, and I would do Pavorotti, Roy Orbison, and Elton John. I would listen to their songs and just realized how great they are, how phenomenal their talent is, and how difficult it is to sing like that. But maybe someday. A friend of mine in the music business wants do an album with me. But I gotta sing a lot better first. [Laughs].

At the recent Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special, there was a Jon Lovitz-is-dead shtick. How did that come to be?

Well, they said I was gonna be in the show, but they weren't sure what I was gonna do. Then producer Steve Higgins and Jimmy Fallon called me up and said, "You'll be doing something with Steve Martin," and I said, "Great," and then I found out it was that. It really made me laugh, even though I was the butt of the joke. That's the kind of humor they used to do when I grew up watching the show, and I thought, "I can't believe they're doing that." But I have no problem laughing at myself.

Was the sketch implying that you're not as visible anymore?

He said he picked me because I don't mind laughing at myself, am the only one who could pull it off and it won't come off mean 'cause I make fun of myself all the time.

A documentary is coming out about late SNL alum Chris Farley. Which late SNL star should be next?

Off the top of my head, I think John Belushi or Gilda Radner. They were in the original cast; they really helped create the show. I think you'd have to say they were probably the most successful male and female ever on the show.

In your SNL years, you were closest to Phil Hartman, who you also later worked with on NewsRadio? Do you think about him often? 

Yes, very. He was like my big brother. I think about him every single day. I still have pictures of him in my house. He was the nicest guy in the world. He's probably the only guy that no matter what project he was working on, he's the one guy that everybody adored, that everybody got along with and never had any problems with. Yeah, just a terrific guy. I miss him a lot. 

You're one of the few actors to start doing stand-up later in your career. Why did you start doing stand-up 12 years ago?

I had always wanted to do it. I used to do Woody Allen/Lenny Bruce routines in my college dorm at UC Irvine, and after that I always wanted to do it. So I went to this workshop, where they were teaching for free how to be in stand-up. The guy teaching it said they weren't hiring stand-ups for sitcoms. I believed him, but it wasn't true. So I thought, "Well, I'll skip it." Then I got on Saturday Night Live. I was often encouraged to do stand-up, but I was too nervous. So I finally started doing it 12 years ago at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. I've been doing it ever since and really love it.

What kind of comedy muscle do you flex when you're doing stand-up as opposed to doing TV or movies?

It's different because comedy acting in a movie and play — there's a script and you're playing a character and playing off someone else and a director. When it's stand-up, you direct it, you write it and you perform it. You're playing off the audience and setting up your own timing with all the jokes. There's also more freedom because you can mix it up and do stuff off the top of your head. You can essentially do whatever you want.

Jon Lovitz, July 10-12, at Cobb's Comedy Club, ($30), 915 Columbus, 415-928-4320 or cobbscomedyclub.com.



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