By Jim Ruland
When Kevin Nealon comes to town June 22, it will be his first time performing at the new American Comedy Company (which opened in the Gaslamp Quarter earlier this year), but he’s no stranger to San Diego.
San Diego was the first place Nealon lived when he moved from Connecticut to California in the late 1970s. He landed in North Park, and one of his first jobs was performing as Santa Claus at the local Sears, which was located where the Uptown District stands today.
“I was wearing this really lousy, unconvincing Santa Claus costume and beard,” Nealon says. “The parents were the ones who were really out of control. ‘Tell ‘em what you want, Tommy! Tell ‘em about the big wheel!’ ” It was a less-than-glamorous introduction to show business.
“A lot of the kids were so nervous they would pee on my lap,” Nealon says. “I guess this company had experience with that, because there was Scotchgard all over the pants.”
From North Park, Nealon made his way to Pacific Beach. He performed at the Comedy Store in La Jolla before making his way to Los Angeles and ultimately to New York, where he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for 10 seasons.
One night, an SNL guest made a surprise announcement. “Eddie Vedder was performing with Pearl Jam and he came up to me. ‘Dude, I used to watch you down in San Diego. I’m a big fan.’ I think that was pretty cool.’”
Not as cool as Nealon’s appearances in a string of Adam Sandler movies, including Happy Gilmore and Little Nicky, which led to more “serious” roles like his character Doug Wilson on the Showtime series Weeds. The premier episode of the show’s eighth season is scheduled for July 1. "Eight years. That’s a lot of pot.”
This season, which is rumored to be Weeds’ last, is set in the fictional town of Old Sandwich, in the state of Connecticut, where Nealon began his long, strange journey into comedy.
“I’ve had a couple of good runs. Some people come up to me and say, ‘Dude, I grew up watching you.’ It’s a compliment, but at the same time it makes me aware how long I’ve been doing this.”
Later this summer, Showtime will air Nealon’s second stand-up comedy special. San Diegans can get a sneak peak this month at the American Comedy Company.
“I’ve been doing stand up my whole career,” Nealon said. “It’s really my forte, my passion.”