Aspen Times Weekly: Kevin Nealon’s Colorado
Aspen Laugh Festival Lineup
Tuesday, Feb. 21, 6:30 p.m.
Locals Open Mic Night
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 24, 7:30 & 10:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets and more info at http://www.wheeleroperahouse.com
Kevin Nealon has been a mainstay of American comedy for more than three decades now, from his early days as a stand-up comic to his immortal nine-year run on “Saturday Night Live” and appearances in just about all of Adam Sandler’s movies and on a smattering of TV shows.
Most recently, he’s been appearing with Matt LeBlanc on the sitcom “Man With a Plan,” and popped up last month on an episode of “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Nealon grew up in Connecticut. But Aspen and Colorado — from the days of the HBO Comedy Festival to today — have been regular stops for Nealon, who returns to headline the Aspen Laugh Festival at the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday, Feb. 25.
He taped his most recent hour-long comedy special, Showtime’s “Whelmed…But Not Overly,”
“I could’ve taped my special anywhere and I chose Colorado because I seem to connect the best with those audiences there,” he told me on one of his recent runs through town. “I don’t know if it’s the pot thing or what.”
The “pot thing,” of course, refers to his memorable stoner character, Doug, on the series “Weeds” and Colorado’s well-deserved status as a mecca of pot culture.
“A lot of people assume I’m a pothead because of that show, but I’m not a pot smoker,” he says, adding with a laugh: “It’s just good acting I think. I’ve had people offer me tons of pot over the years.”
Through his long career, Nealon’s stand-up routine has been bolstered by his keen eye for the bizarre and his lighthearted take on life and current events.
“My set is always evolving, and I’m always looking for new things,” he says. “When you first start out, you’re emulating someone. So when I first started out, people were doing Richard Pryor or Steve Martin or David Letterman. You get to a point where you discover your style — once you find that you keep evolving, because you’re living your life and evolving. So it’s always changing. But mine is more reflecting on my life and how I see things.”
After he became a father in 2007, his stand-up material including riffs on his wife’s pregnancy, kids and fatherhood (it was also the subject of his 2008 memoir, “Yes, You’re Pregnant, but What About Me?”). The 2012 special brought him back into the realm of spot-on observational humor and included bits on getting food poisoning (“I wish when you threw up the sound told you what the food was that you ate, so you could pinpoint it”), one on seasonal sleeping habits, another on driving while talking on a cellphone and a memorable story about crop-dusting Jack Nicholson on the set of “Anger Management.”
A regular Colorado visitor, he’s worked skiing into his routines here and there, including a memorable bit he performed last month on “Prairie Home Companion,” playing with ski jargon double entendres like “white powder,” “grooming” and “black diamond.”
“I pull into this convenience store and I ask the guy, ‘What’s the best mountain to ski around here?’ He says, ‘I like Copper Mountain, but a lot of people don’t like to ski there because they’re scared of all the blacks.’ I thought, ‘This guy’s a racist!’ I was confused. But he says, ‘I don’t mind the blacks, I have a lot of fun with them. But they’re all over the mountain, you can’t get away from them, and some of them are not very well groomed.”
Nealon’s Aspen gigs have included performing with the cast of “Saturday Night Live” at Comedy Fest, doing remote spots for “The Tonight Show” and doing several stand-up shows at Belly Up (it was after one of those, in 2014, when he witnessed a private plane crash at Sardy Field and became one of the first people to report it to the world via Twitter).
Nealon said he can never predict the demographic of his crowds because he gets a mix of longtime fans from his stand-up and his “Saturday Night Live” days and housewives who know him from his regular appearances on “Ellen” alongside the “Weeds” fans and guys in the cult following of “Grandma’s Boy.”
“I’m lucky in that way,” he says. “I get an eclectic group of people.”
Through his time in the entertainment business, hitting the road to do stand-up has been the only constant.
“It’s what I got into the business to do, and I never let it go,” he says. “Even when I was doing ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Weeds,’ I never stopped doing it. Sometimes people ask, ‘What’s it like getting back into stand-up?’ But the truth is I never left. It’s really my passion.”