Flashback: Jon Lovitz interview, August 2006
Lovable Jon Lovitz
By Robert J. Nebel
With Saturday Night Live, feature films and Subway ads on his resume, actor/comedian Jon Lovitz seems to have done it all. Somehow that success was not enough for the then-49-year-old Tarzana, California native. To quench his thirst for more, Lovitz hit the stand-up comedy circuit in 2006. After crafting his routine over the course of months, his tour stopped in many locations throughout the United States. The star of SNL, A League of Their Own and The Benchwarmers spoke with me from Los Angeles in early August 2006.
What inspired you to do standup comedy?
It's something that I always wanted to do since I was 13 when I saw Woody Allen's "Take the Money and Run." I said to myself, "You know, I'm getting older and I might never get to do this." So, I started going to the Laugh Factory in Hollywood about two years ago, and practiced to get the show together.
Since you are multi-talented, is your show a mixture of comedy?
Yes, whatever I think is funny, I put in the act. I make fun of myself, Judaism, Catholicism, and Scientology, some politics, women, men, sex and drugs. I then play piano and sing funny songs about Bob Saget.
People like Bob Saget, Dane Cook and others are giving you advice. What are they telling you?
Dane said, "You've got the things you need. You are funny and likable." Dana (Carvey) saw me and said that he didn't need to give me advice. Robin Williams said my act was so funny. That was flattering.
You got your start in the improvisational act The Groundlings.
I joined it in my early 20s. I remember driving down to the theater and thinking, "I'm throwing my life away." When I got there, it was great taking classes. I didn't think it would go as far as it did.
How did SNL approach you at The Groundlings?
There was news that Lorne Michaels was coming back to SNL and they were doing a nationwide search. They sent Al Franken and Tom Davis to see me there. At that show, no one was laughing except for Franken. I remember thinking, "At least that guy from SNL was laughing." I then met Lorne and he auditioned me live. I didn't think I was going to get it.
What inspired you to do the Harvey Fierstein impression?
I saw him in a TV movie. He was so over the top, I had to do an imitation. I like him. I think he is talented. He thought I was doing a stereotype and I wasn't.
You did a sketch with Mick Jagger on SNL. What was that like?
I did my Liar character with him and host Jerry Hall. Lorne approached me and said, "Go meet Mick Jagger in the studio. Show him how to do the Liar." I thought to myself, "Holy shit. I can't believe I'm doing this inside joke with Mick Jagger. Jerry later told me that the sketch was her idea because Mick was always lying to her.
You are doing the new Subway ad. The character uses a faux British accent that your acting professor at UC Irvine used.
The ad agency came up with a new campaign and just approached me about it. The character is the professor, Ian McKellan and others.
Was it strange replacing Phil Hartman on "Newsradio?"
It was a tough year. Phil was like a brother to me and it was hard to do it. Everyone on the show said that Phil would have wanted me to do it. Phil's mother thanked me for doing it. A lot of people don't know that.
You were an orderly, messenger, waiter and shoe store clerk. Did you form any characters off of those odd jobs?
Part of the Liar character comes from the messenger job. There was a 21-year-old bum who lied his head off. He was horrible. I couldn't stop laughing. After that I came up with the name Tommy Flanagan. I did that on "Weekend Update" and mispronounced it on purpose.
Are you changing up the routine for different audiences?
No, it's pretty much the same for all audiences. I cannot worry if I offend anyone. I make fun of everyone.