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Kevin Nealon Discusses Zanies Show, What He Loves About Nashville

Kevin Nealon spends much more time in Nashville than you realize. His wife is from Music City and he’s been a regular here for nearly two decades. Currently, Nealon can be seen on the CBS sitcom Man with a Plan alongside Matt LeBlanc but maybe you remember him from the Showtime series Weeds. Or maybe you remember him from any number of his film appearances, many of which were alongside his friend Adam Sandler, like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Little Nicky, Blended and Sandy Wexler, to name a few.

The nine-year veteran of Saturday Night Live is eyeing a new standup special and, this weekend, Nashville will be the first city that gets to hear the material. He chatted with us about the live show, what he’s working on, what the future may hold and reflected on his career.

Nashville Noise: I assume this isn’t your first trip to Nashville. How long has it been since you’ve been to town?
Kevin Nealon: Oh gosh, we come here a lot. My wife is from Nashville and her parents live here. So we come, probably, a couple of times a year; over the last 18 years.

What are your favorite things about the city? What do you do when you come to town?
KN: There’s so much I like about Nashville! I have some friends here, too, and I visit them. I like the history. My wife and I went into the Woolworth last night over on 5th and just kind of got a whole history lesson on John Lewis during the civil rights movement. That was interesting. For the novelty, we walk down Broadway and see the saloons with the bands playing. I must say that it’s looking more and more like Mardi Gras these days.

You’re returning for a show this weekend. What can we expect?
My act is always evolving, as it should; like life. I do a lot of personal stuff with twists and exaggerations. My material has kind of gotten a little dark these days. My new tour is called “Silent But Deadly,” because my friends said, “You know what? Your material sneaks up on people. And they kind of get it a second later.”

It’s hard to explain what your material is like, sometimes it’s better to let someone else describe it. And I think that’s probably what I hear a lot of — that it kind of sneaks up on you.

You’ve spent the past several years in more traditional sitcom roles. How different is what you’re doing on stage from what you’re doing on television?
There are so many differences. It’s immediate. I’m in control, it’s my material. I’m not saying somebody else’s lines. And there’s the interaction with the audience, one-on-one, the live thing. That’s what I really enjoy doing.

The multi-camera sitcom — there hasn’t been that much of it until the last couple of years. There were a few shows that didn’t last long over the years. This has been fun and the schedule is great.

What sends you out on the road this time? How long is the tour?
The tour starts at Zanies on Saturday and it’ll go until the middle of August, possibly into December. I haven’t done a special in seven years — I’ve done two already. But I have so much material and things to say now that I’m hoping to do another special, so I’m getting ready for that.

Aside from the live show, you’ve also been working on Man with a Plan. When does that start back up?
KN: Yeah, we finished taping a couple of weeks ago. We did 13 episodes that will begin airing in February. If it gets picked up again, it’ll start back in the middle of August.

We also have a hiking show that I do called Hiking with Kevin on YouTube and between the writing, editing and casting of that, it keeps me really busy.

How did that idea come about? Was it something that you came up with on your own? Was there a team behind it?
KN: No, it was totally random and organic. I was hiking with a friend of mine who’s an actor, Matthew Modine from Full Metal Jacket and Stranger Things. He’s a great actor. I say to him, “Hey, Matt, you wanna go for a hike behind my house?” And he says, “Yeah, sure.” So we’re hiking up this steep trail and we’re talking and catching up and we’re both so out of breath. I thought, “This would be a funny interview. You can hardly understand what we’re saying because we’re both so out of breath.”

So I did that, and decided, “Well this could be fun to do as kind of a weekly web series.” I started calling up my friends: Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, actors like Owen Wilson, all these people. I did a hike every week and I’d post it on my Instagram and Twitter. I was talking to Howard Stern once and he said that he was a big fan of those posts and that I should make them longer. I thought that was a good idea, so I started a YouTube channel and I post them on the YouTube channel every Thursday.

Do you have any forthcoming projects? Any new TV? Or is the focus right now what’s on the table with Man with a Plan and Hiking with Kevin?
KN: Definitely those two. I also have a short film that I’d like to direct if I can get a window. My wife and I and another friend have written a short film and filmed it. We hope to enter it into a film festival in a couple of months.

Can you tell me anything about that film?
KN: It’s called Behind Janice and Keke. It’s about two mothers who had created a monsterous hit TV show back in 2007. It’s a documentary on those two women and what came to be and the demise of that show.

Is that something you’d like to do more of? Producing and directing?
KN: Yeah, and we were talking earlier about all of the platforms that are out there now and social media. And this is just an example of that. I take my cell phone and film it, direct it and edit it and then we’re able to post it and take it to a film festival. The social media thing – technology has really made things much more accessible.

Nealon kicks off his “Silent but Deadly” tour at Zanies on Jan. 4 at 5 PM. More information is available here.