Comedian Jon Lovitz has been making fans laugh for nearly 30 years, with a stint on Saturday Night Live, to appearances on TV shows such as Seinfeld and The Simpsons and films, including The Producers.
Although mainly known for his acting and sketch comedy work, Lovitz has recently focused his attention on one of his first loves, stand-up comedy; he comes to San Francisco for a series of shows at Cobb’s Comedy Club March 22-23.
How did you get into doing standup comedy?
About 10 years ago I went to my agent and manager and said, “Can you get me some more work? I’m not broke, but I’m going to run out in five years.” They both wanted me to just sell my house, the one I had been living in for 15 years—and one of them had just moved into a mansion, and the other one was building one—and they wanted me to downsize! So I said, “I have a better idea, I’m going to learn how to be a standup and fire both of them” and that’s what I did.
It was something that I’ve always wanted to do; I love it because you get to write and perform your own material. When I first started, I tried doing some characters from Saturday Night Live, but they didn’t really work, which was good because if forced me to write my own material.
So now it’s really just me and whatever I have opinions about. I make fun of myself, sex, politics, religion; I also write funny songs and play the piano and sing—it’s just total creative freedom.
Some fans may not be aware that you are also a musician. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I grew up playing the piano, and my family was always singing. I once sang the “National Anthem” at Dodger Stadium and the U.S. Open, and I got to be a part of a tribute to Ira Gershwin at Carnegie Hall (in 1997). That was incredible because I was singing with huge Broadway stars and people like Rosemary Clooney, Vic Damone and Michael Feinstein.
A friend of mine got me a job singing on an album with Robbie Williams, who is like the biggest rock star in Europe.
You currently own the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club and Podcast Theatre at Universal Studios. How did that come about?
Kevin Smith does his podcast there. I didn’t even know what a podcast was; I had never heard of them a few years ago. He explained to me how it worked, and it’s great because it’s another form of a comedy show, and people love both being there and hearing them.
Last year on one of the podcasts you criticized President Obama and it created quite a reaction. Can you talk a little about that?
There was a thing with Obama saying people weren’t paying their fair share of taxes and I got really mad about it, and with podcasts you just go with what you’re thinking, so I did, and four months later [Kevin Smith] posted it on his website.
Some conservative website heard about it and then it just went nuts, radio stations started calling me to come on, and CNN and Fox News and everything—I couldn’t believe it. I’m a comedian and musician, I never claimed to be a political expert, but on this issue, it made me angry because I knew he was lying just to get votes; and if you say that, people start going, “Oh, you’re a conservative.” I’ve never been a Republican or conservative in my life, ever.
Having a business, and knowing how much money I was putting into it, and having all the taxes I have to pay—which are a lot—and they say, “Oh, we spent too much money, so we need to raise your taxes.” It made me angry, to me, it’s like a kid saying “I spent all my allowance, now you have to give me more.”
You didn’t budget your money, I’m not giving you more—to me, that’s what they were doing, and they’re still doing it. I don’t care how you vote, everyone’s getting screwed!
Do you have any particular memories of performing in or visiting San Francisco in the past?
I grew up in LA and have been visiting up there since I was a kid. It’s a magical city; it’s beautiful—the bay, the parks, the buildings—there’s no place like it. It’s like a West Coast New York.
When I grew up I wanted to be Willie Mays, so I loved going to the Giants games, that ballpark is one of the nicest, if not the nicest, baseball stadiums in the country. I just love everything about it.
You’ve also done a lot of voice over work for animated films, most recently Hotel Transylvania—those must be fun to work on?
Adam Sandler has been a great friend. He hires me a lot and I’m really grateful for that. Robert Smigel wrote it, and Robert and I started at Saturday Night Live the same year, so it was like working with old friends. It’s a lot of fun.
Jon Lovitz performs March 22-23 at Cobb’s Comedy Club. More info.