Jon Lovitz heads for the Improv
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media August 25, 2011 10:58AM
Actor Jon Lovitz arrives for the premiere of the movie "Click" in Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 14, 2006. (AP Photo/Lucas Jackson)
♦ Sept. 1-4
♦ The IMPROV, 5 Woodfield Road, Schaumburg
♦ (847) 240-2001
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:58AM
Jon Lovitz is out of breath.
The actor-turned-standup comic was playing tennis before our phone call, something he does several times a week.
Lovitz is coming to The IMPROV Comedy Club at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg for four evening shows Sept. 1 to 4.
“This will be my third time out to Chicago. It’s such a great town, and the club’s great,” he said. “I get to go to a Cubs game and throw out the pitch at Wrigley Field, and that’s always thrilling. That’s where we shot part of ‘A League of Their Own.’ It’s fun going back there. I love that ballpark. I really do look forward to going to Chicago. Everyone’s nice. It’s a beautiful city. If the weather was like it is in Los Angeles, I would have moved there.”
He is perhaps best known for his stint on “Saturday Night Live” from 1985 to 1990. He was part of the show’s comedic resurgence in the late ‘80s. He portrayed characters such as Tommy Flanagan, the Pathological Liar who used the old catchphrase, “Yeah! That’s the ticket!” Other characters included Hanukkah Harry, Master Thespian, Tonto and Michael Dukakis.
Later, he replaced his former “SNL” co-star, Phil Hartman, on “NewsRadio” in 1999. The parts slowed to a trickle, and he realized that if he wanted to stay in show business he was going to have to make his own opportunities.
Several years ago, he began dabbling in standup comedy.
“It was like starting over. I was 46, and the movies roles weren’t coming in, and I needed to make money,” he said. “Standup was something I always wanted to do. I told my agent, ‘You’ve got to get me work.’ They go, ‘Why don’t you sell your house?’ That really made me angry.”
That forced him onto the stage. He started hosting the shows of friends and formed “SNL” cast mates like Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson and Norm McDonald.
“They did their acts and I started opening for them. I had 10 minutes and I thought that was a long time to tell jokes,” he said. “I kept working on it and I got to 20 minutes. And I couldn’t get past it. Dana Carvey helped me a lot. He said, ‘Look at your topics and see what you can expand on.’”
Seven years later, he has his act refined. His standup act is just Jon Lovitz, no characters.
“It’s me and my opinion. I make fun of myself, religion, sex, politics; I play the piano and sing funny songs. It’s really my sense of humor. I would describe the show as being silly and smart. And ridiculous. It’s my uncensored sense of humor, let’s put it that way. The show’s a lot of fun. I just try and be funny and make people laugh.”
When he’s not touring the country with his standup act, he operates The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
Director Kevin Smith (“Clerks”) does a podcast out of the club, and as does comedian Adam Corolla.
“It was so successful, Kevin said, ‘Why not make it into Jon Lovitz Podcast Theater.’ So the club is both now, standup and podcasts,” he said. “Kevin moved his SModcasts there, which is great. Those are heard all around the world. Now we have people from all over the world coming to the club. It’s fantastic. It’s very exciting.”
He does a podcast with Smith called “The ABC’s of ‘SNL’” about his experiences on the show.
“It’s really fun. People really enjoy it. The first one was No. 1 comedy on iTunes and No. 2 overall.”
He just wrapped a movie called “Jewtopia,” which was based on an off-Broadway play. The cast includes Ivan Sergei, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jamie Sigler, Wendie Malick, Phil Rosenthal, Tom Arnold and Camryn Manheim. Rita Wilson plays his wife and Joel David Moore plays his son.
He has guested on many noted shows; such as “The Simpsons,” “Seinfeld,” “Friends,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Just Shoot Me.” Most recently, he was seen in the TV Land comedy “Hot in Cleveland.” He returned to host “Saturday Night Live” in 1997.
“They’re all great shows. ‘Hot in Cleveland,’ I had so much fun. I knew Wendie Malick, I worked with her on ‘Just Shoot Me.’ She actually recommended me for ‘Hot in Cleveland,’” he said. “She’s been a great friend. And Valerie Bertinelli had hosted ‘Saturday Night Live,’ so I knew her. Jane Leeves and Betty White I had never met, but they were as nice as could be. Everybody was so nice. It was really fun.”
He also made a cameo when Dana Carvey hosted “SNL” last season.
“It was thrilling to be back. It felt great,” he said. “The new cast — well, they’re not new. To me, they’re new, but they’ve been there eight, nine years. They’ve been there longer than I was there. They’re all super nice, super talented. Al Jean is still the head writer and he created ‘The Critic.’”
Even though “The Critic” only lasted one season on Fox, he still gets fans come up to him telling him how much they loved the show.
“We only did 23 shows, so it’s really flattering that people still bring it up,” he said. “I feel really lucky, because a couple times I had the lead role, but mostly I’ve done supporting parts or cameos. But people come up to me and they all have different performances I did that they like. If I took everything everyone said to me, it’s pretty much every job I’ve ever had. It’s really flattering because it means I’m giving memorable performances which is what I’m trying to do.”
Lovitz’s show is meant to draw laughs.
“I would say if you are having a tough time in your life, then going to a club and getting laughs, it does make you feel better for that hour and a half show,” he said. “It gets your mind off of it. My dad would always say, ‘What can you do to make the world a better place?’ Well, I can make people laugh.”