Not that Nealon has ever completely fallen out of favor with Hollywood casting agents or the major promoters of the stand-up circuit. But Nealon, owner of one of the longer runs on Saturday Night Live (1986-95), never quite found the same cachet as fellow castmembers and current Hollywood pillars such as Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Mike Myers.
But there has been a Nealon renaissance thanks to his work on the
Showtime cult-hit series Weeds. Nealon has found a character that
jives with his aloof avuncular persona -- Doug Wilson, shameless mayor
of tract housing blah-topia Agrestic and avowed marijuana enthusiast.
The show has been a big enough hit that Cobb's marquee billed this weekend's shows at "Kevin Nealon from Weeds," and at least one eager (and ignored) fan just wanted to hear him "talk about Weeds." (Maybe he thought Nealon had a hook-up for him, we can't be sure.)
By now, Nealon has grown comfortably into the L.A. lifestyle and seems
to have adopted as an alter ego a satirical version of the vaguely
aware, faux intellectual, uber narcissistic Los Angeleno. Early in his
set he spoke of fires that raged throughout SoCal and one particularly
tragic result -- the ash that befell his 2010 7 Series BMW. And at
57, he's found himself of an age where his Hollywood friends' kids are
already grown up and in rehab.
His L.A. is a confused one, where "the
economy and Egypt and all" is a reason for everything.
Nealon's a tall drink of water -- "Yeah I get it," he said as he came onstage, addressing the applause. "I'm much taller than you thought I was" -- and every inch (well, maybe not these inches) of him is comfortable at the mic ("You know me," was a plausible premise for many of his arguments).
He seemed very much in his element -- or, in his own favorite new terminology, stand-up is "in his wheelhouse." But Nealon brought to our attention the fact that despite his lasting looks and charm, he admittedly has no idea how to do important things for society. Like how you'd get trapped miners out from underneath the earth or build a bridge. Maybe wait until the tide is low, then dig like crazy?
Nealon has a way of simplifying the world around him, almost to a child's level of understanding, which is to say, a level that any Weeds-loving and -smoking fan could relate. He reminisced about the time when Playboy asked him to write a review of some adult entertainment, which his friends convinced him was "the right thing to do." He's been doing the bit for a while now), but it was still the winning anecdote of the night: "I watched the first one and I started to get interested, then more interested, then more interested, then VERY interested, then, all of a sudden, no interest at all..." He also reviewed an all-guy porn, which inspired similar results and a gamut of emotional states.
If only for a few minutes, Nealon did get real. His well-documented divorce with ex-wife Linda Dupree was, he says, a very painful experience, mitigated no less by the fact that the couple never had kids. When people try to downplay the severity of the divorce for that reason, Nealon takes issue: "It's like your legs have been blown off at the knees and someone says 'Oh no! Were you wearing nice shoes?' " There's a sensitivity to him, it seems, which is probably why his act is so light-hearted.
He threw a bone to his SNL-era fans with his Subliminal Man's under-the-breath insults, inserting flits of phrase such as "STDs," "hemorrhoids" "Charlie Sheen" "white trash" and "swingers" into an otherwise lovely get-to-know-ya conversation with a couple of audience members.
And he ended with another crowd-interaction game of dirty ad libs,
impressing with composed repartee and willingness to go along with
pretty much everything the audience sent his way.
His parting words were mostly true: "You were a great crowd, and I was very funny." Thing is, he still is.
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