Kevin Nealon hikes, laughs and draws

Kevin Nealon, the revered stand-up actor and comedian seen in more than twenty films, many written and produced by his friend Adam Sandler, never intended to start a YouTube talk show. “I was hiking with Matthew Modine in the summer of 2017,” Nealon said from his home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, not far from a series of narrow, dusty trails and pockmarked roads better suited to the rented burro. only on foot. “We were going up a very steep slope. We were talking so out of breath that we couldn’t understand each other. I thought this would be a fun music video. So I recorded it just by holding my cell phone. I job it, and it got a good response. I thought: I should do this every week with a different friend who is a celebrity.

It may be almost fresh air. Or the possibility of being attacked by a mountain lion, which almost happened once. Or the many passers-by who ask, “Hey, that’s the one I think it’s “Anyway,”Hike with Kevin“, with more than two hundred and fifty thousand subscribers, has become a welcome respite from the tightly scripted Q.&As that actors and comedians are forced to endure in front of studio audiences or on podcasts with much larger hosts. interested in laughter than in learning anything from their guests. On the rides, no subject is off limits. Best of all, there is rarely, if ever, a project to promote. It would be like an episode of “The Dick Cavett Show”, if the interviewer and subject were sweating profusely and constantly out of breath.

Conan O’Brien appeared with Nealon in an early episode and spoke openly about her lifelong struggle with anxiety. After showing up hours late, Jeff Goldblum recalled an assault he received in Los Angeles decades ago, and how he learned the abuser’s mother was a fan of his 1980 ABC comedy series, “Tenspeed and Brown Shoe.” Howie Mandel, sun-averse and germophobic, wearing a very large Sonoma hat bought especially for hiking to ward off any UV rays, describes his acrobatic ability open public doors with only one knee or one’s feet. Comedian Whitney Cummings in February 2019 revealed his mutilated right ear, which had been partly chewed by a dog. The close-up of the stitched-together lobe, seen in the harsh, natural LA light, is enough to stick with a viewer forever.

There’s a garage-punk feel to the entire proceedings on those Franklin Hills, Solstice and Corral Canyons, a counter-intuitive approach that might surprise those familiar with Nealon from the more traditional “SNL” characters he’s portrayed from 1986 to 1995, such as as Franz (from “Hans & Franz“), or his eight-season run as a stoner with synesthesia Doug Wilson on Showtime’s “Weeds.” Here, Nealon acts as his own producer (inviting guests himself), cinematographer (using a portable GoPro on a selfie stick), and editor (with Adobe Premiere Pro on his MacBook).

A 1975 graduate of Sacred Heart University in his home state of Connecticut, where he majored in marketing, Nealon headed to Los Angeles a few years later to do stand-up comedy, eventually landing a job. bartender at the Hollywood Improv run by Budd Friedman. – a hive of what is now considered legendary comedic talent. “I was in such an amazing position working at that bar for two years, and I loved it,” Nealon says. “I’d see all those comics arrive that I’d watched on TV growing up. I was just in awe. Robin Williams would come back from filming ‘Mork & Mindy’, still in suspenders. The showroom was packed, so I would go up to the upstairs office. I would look through the peephole Andy Kaufman reading “The Great Gatsby” and do their laundry on stage. It had a huge effect on me. »

Using Kaufman, Williams, Steve Martin and Albert Brooks as comic stars, Nealon honed his own unique, surreal and deadpan style, creating slightly off-kilter characters such as Mr. Subliminal, a passive-aggressive right arrow that has nothing interesting to say until a short, shocking interjection reveals its true intentions. There was something – hot sex! – intriguing in this nebula. Nealon’s characters were meta, maybe deranged, but, like the creator himself, very likable. “Kevin is a very easy-going, light-hearted guy,” David Spade said via email. “He catches you with dry jokes when you’re not even looking for them. He’s so good at not giving them a hard time.

At thirty, after years of perfecting his number in front of a small audience across the country, Nealon appeared on “The Tonight Show”, in August 1984, making such a connection with Johnny Carson that he won the coveted invitation to hit the couch after the routine, the holy grail of stand-up, back when such a thing existed. “I remember Carson laughing and throwing his head back,” Nealon said. “I remember the cigarette smoke coming out of his nostrils. It was such a natural high for me. To this day, I’ve never done anything that really gave me that feeling.

Numerous “Tonight Show” and other television appearances followed, and in 1986, at the suggestion of his friend Dana Carvey, Nealon auditioned for Lorne Michaels on “SNL”, and became one of the most successful performers. alumni of the show. history, with a run of nine years. It was there, during the sometimes endless weekly reading tables in the afternoon, at the large table in the writers’ wing, that Nealon reconnected with a passion he had had since his childhood: drawing caricatures of those around him. . “I drew the hosts, I drew the other actors, I drew everyone I looked up to,” Nealon said.

For “Hiking with Kevin”, Nealon is his own producer, cinematographer and editor.

On October 25, Nealon will post “I exaggerate: my brushes with fame”, a hardcover collection of more than fifty finely detailed and hyperrealistic caricatures of people with whom Nealon worked (Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Tiffany Haddish) or admired from afar (Anthony Bourdain, Kurt Cobain, Humphrey Bogart). “It’s something I wanted to do, but never at this level,” Nealon said. “When I was growing up, I had two framed caricature pastel drawings of my parents on my bedroom wall by a Parisian artist, and they were unlike anything you had ever seen. Every night I would go to bed and , unconsciously, I was studying these cartoons.

As with anything cartoonish, both onstage and offstage, there is a dangerously thin margin for error; the difference between complimenting and mocking can fade, one bleeding into the other. Nealon’s illustrations border on beautiful and monstrous, as if dragged through an augmented reality filter application. Freddie Mercury doesn’t look so much like a world famous rock star as he looks like a ox-toothed ferret drenched in pubic hair. Blood vessels practically sprang from Garry Shandling’s bulbous nose. Christopher Walken’s red-rimmed eyes stare at the viewer as if straight out of a 3D horror movie. And yet, there is clearly a love and admiration for each of these celebrities, as evidenced by an artistic style made famous by 19th-century Parisian artists, such as Claude Monet early in his career, or by contemporaries such as the Briton Paul Moise, who, over ten Skype lessons in 2019, taught Nealon the nuances of this very particular art form. “I basically learned to draw on a Wacom, a digital tablet,” Nealon told me. “I would say the lessons were probably sixty percent about learning to understand this thing. And then forty percent were drawing caricatures.

Chris Farley is captured as a child, sickly and vulnerable, seemingly moments away from a gruesome death that we know is lurking just around the corner. You want to reach out and give her a hug and a warning. Chris Rock is seemingly caught in the middle of the punchline, his eyes shining almost as brightly as his diamond earring. He kills him, he knows it, and he will do it again. And even. He has reached his cruising altitude and is speeding along.