By Iain Blair
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Ever since comedian Kevin Nealon made his television debut on "The Tonight Show" back in 1984 he's worked in arenas both familiar - nine seasons doing comedy "Saturday Night Live" - and unexpected - eight seasons acting on Showtime's "Weeds."
On August 4, Nealon returns to his stand-up comedy roots with TV special, "Whelmed...But Not Overly." The TV funnyman spoke with Reuters recently about the show, the worst heckling from an audience member and a Los Angeles public service announcement that has people talking and laughing.
Q: Kevin Nealon TV specials seem to be rare events. Why now?
A: "When I began doing stand-up it took me a long time to get an hour's worth of material together. So about 20 years later I figured, I must have an hour by now. I did my first special two years ago, then I went on the road, which is how you really come up with new material. I find as I get older, I also gather more material as I think more about what's ahead and behind. When you're younger it's just about what's going on right now. A special validates you as a stand-up by documenting your material."
Q: But you've been at it a long time. Do you still like it?
A: "I love it. It's what I started doing, and the acting came secondary. I grew up watching stand-ups and thought it was so entertaining and unique - you didn't see that as a job description anywhere."
Q: Ever been heckled?
A: "Not usually, but I had one terrible time. I brought this friend of a friend to a club in Dallas. My friend couldn't make the show and asked me to pick up this woman who was her roommate. So I drove her to the club, and I guess she'd had some wine, and she sat right in front of the stage and kept drinking through the opening acts. By the time I got on she was pretty sloshed - and she immediately started drunk heckling me."
Q: Didn't the management throw her out?
A: "No, because they saw me arrive with her and assumed she was a friend - and I didn't even know her!"
Q: Talk about no good deed goes unpunished.
A: "Exactly! I actually drove my drunk heckler to my show and gave her a great seat and she passed out at the end. I had to carry her over my shoulder, get her in the car, take her home and wait 'til my friend got home. I was worried she was going to throw up and drown in her vomit. Not a great night (laughs).
Q: You're wrapping up the final season of "Weeds." Do you like acting?
A: "I do, but when I started I think I was too shy to admit I was interested in it. But I did a bunch of workshops and really got into it."
Q: How do you look back on "Weeds"?
A: "It's been a great time, and it's rare to lock into a long-running show that's so great. Your expectations are pretty low, so when it happens, you're pleasantly surprised. When I first began doing TV pilots, my expectations were high. I didn't understand that world. So when "Weeds" took off, I was so happy. Especially as I was just a guest star in the pilot. But once it got picked up, they made me a regular cast member. It was the same on "Saturday Night Live." I was initially hired as a writer and then for my second season they hired me as a full-fledged cast member. Maybe people are afraid to commit to me (laughs)."
Q: Fond memories of "Saturday Night Live?"
A: "Absolutely. I know a lot of people say it was horrible and so competitive, but so is Hollywood. It was so creative and to work with all these amazing guests and hosts - Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Bill Murray - was pretty special for me."
Q: You have a very funny public service announcement for animal rescue initiative, No Kill LA (nkla.org). Did you write it?
A: They'd written a script with me in a kennel licking my crotch and talking about needing to find a home. I felt that was a little low-brow, so we came up with this idea, talking about all these wild diseases. Once you start on that, it's an endless list. It's a very serious issue, but I wanted to do something unique and entertaining, and everyone seems to love it.
(Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Stacey Joyce)