BALTIMORE — To say that actor/comedian Jon Lovitz was a little nervous when he started performing stand-up comedy is, according to him, a bit of an understatement.
“Not a little nervous—Huge! If you put your hand on my chest where my heart is, it would be pounding like I just sprinted. In my case, it would be sprinting ten feet,” Lovitz quips to Baltimore Post-Examiner. “But my heart was pounding. Believe me, it’s nerve-racking.”
Now, the actor and former Saturday Night Live (SNL) star is a pro-stand-up comic, headlining at comedy clubs around the country. From July 11-13, he brings his topical comedy to Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium.
Lovitz has been making audiences laugh throughout his career with memorable characters such as Master Thespian, Hanukkah Harry, and Tommy Flanagan, The Pathological Liar with the catchphrase, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!” But he only began performing stand-up comedy in earnest about 16 years ago, when he says that acting jobs were drying up.
Back then, Lovitz remembers asking his agent at the time if he could get him acting work. According to Lovitz, the agent’s response was “Why don’t you sell your house?” While Lovitz wasn’t broke, he said that his money would have run out in about five years if he didn’t keep working.
When he felt like his agent had given up on him, Lovitz says that he got angry. “I was so mad, and I’d always wanted to be a stand-up [comic],” Lovitz recalls. In fact, he had wanted to do stand-up comedy since he graduated from the University of California, Irvine, where he majored in drama. Instead, he became a member of The Groundlings, the famous improv and sketch-comedy troupe in Los Angeles. Then he moved on to SNL, acting roles in movies and on television, and even on Broadway in Neil Simon’s The Dinner Party.
So Lovitz decided that he would finally pursue stand-up comedy.
Dana Carvey, one of Lovitz’s best friends, helped him learn the craft of writing and performing stand-up. “He said that the most important thing is to have fun on stage,” Lovitz says. With Carvey’s help, Lovitz says that he learned how to come up with more material, make it sharp, and keep the audience engaged. “He really saved me years of trial and error,.”
Lovitz also got help from Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory franchise of comedy clubs. “Jamie Masada was really great and let me develop as a stand-up there, but I took two years before I was headlining because I didn’t feel ready,” Lovitz says.
He began doing five minutes of comedy and hosting shows for other people from SNL, then co-headlining, and finally headlining on his own. “Now I love it,” Lovitz says. “And I’m way better than I was 15 years ago.”
Not Like Sketch Comedy
Lovitz says that he wasn’t nervous on SNL because it was sketch comedy—so there was a script, and he had rehearsed with other actors. “If you’re thinking you’re on live television, then you’re going to be a nervous wreck. You can’t think about it,” Lovitz says. “Whereas with stand-up, you’re alone, and the whole audience is looking at you going, ‘Make me laugh.’ It’s very different.”
Sketch comedy also limits the performer to what is in the script. “But in stand-up, you can do anything. You have total freedom. Once you really understand that and feel it, you get more relaxed on stage, and then anything goes,” Lovitz explains. “The more honest you are on stage—the more you are like yourself—the more they laugh. People say, ‘It’s like I’m in your living room talking to you.’ That’s what I want because then you really connect to the audience.”
In his stand-up act, Lovitz talks about everything from politics and the social upheaval going on now to the generation gap and, well, Bob Saget. While playing the piano in his act, Lovitz says, “I play silly songs and I sing a lot about Bob Saget. It’s ridiculous.”
Throughout his career, Lovitz has done it all—seriously. In addition to movies, Lovitz has performed on TV in sitcoms, one-hour dramas, and live shows. He’s been on Broadway and done lots of voice work in everything from The Critic to The Simpsons. While he enjoys performing stand-up comedy, Lovitz says that if he could revisit anything he’s done before, he would love to get a regular role in a sitcom. “Those are really fun,” he says.
When asked why people should come see his stand-up, Lovitz says, “It’s really funny. It’s one of the best acts in the country—that’s what they tell me at all the clubs. That’s what they say. I say, who am I to argue?”
Jon Lovitz appears from July 11-13 at Magooby’s Joke House in Timonium. For more info on showtimes, check out https://www.magoobysjokehouse.com/events
Michele “Wojo” Wojciechowski is a national award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box. Her work has appeared in publications such as Vanity Fair, Esquire, Parade, Discover, AARP, PBS’ Next Avenue, Family Circle, Reader’s Digest, and many more. Over the last few years, she’s been learning to play the drums and dreams of playing one song with the Foo Fighters. Oh yeah, and she’s got a Xena Warrior Princess costume hanging in her closet. Don’t ask. Reach her at WojosWorld.com, Twitter @TheMicheleWojo, Facebook WojosWorldFanPage.com.