Comedians are funny things. Well, they ought to be to stay in the job, but that’s not what we mean. When you meet a comedian, you want them to be like their stage persona: charismatic, chatty, and brimming over with witty observations. But when we first talk to Jon Lovitz – probably best known for his memorable cameos in The Wedding Singer and TV’s Friends, plus a five-year stint on America’s Saturday Night Live (SNL) – he’s not exactly the life and soul. He just yawns a lot. (C’mon Jon, it’s only 9pm in LA!). Has he had a nice day? Yes. Did he get up to anything exciting? No.
Thankfully, he warms up eventually, filling us in on his varied career since shooting to fame on SNL in 1985. Lovitz is in Dubai this week to perform a stand-up show at the Madinat Arena’s new monthly comedy club, but when he’s not onstage telling jokes, he’s been making appearances in some of America’s biggest sitcoms (Friends, Seinfeld, Married… with Children), voicing the lead in a cartoon to rival The Simpsons (The Critic), starring in films alongside Hollywood big shots (Woody Allen, Adam Sandler), or, rather strangely, singing with Robbie Williams at the Royal Albert Hall. Seriously, look it up.
Jon Lovitz on… doing stand-up
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been doing it for the past 10 years now. It’s really an expression of who you are and your own sense of humour, you know? You bring who you are to the act.
Jon Lovitz on… founding a comedy club
I opened my own comedy club on City Walk at Universal Studios in Hollywood. It’s called The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club. It’s got this whole Hawaiian beach theme, which I like. I thought it would be fun for it to have an atmosphere like that.
Jon Lovitz on… the next big thing
This guy Ian Bagg is fantastic. I think he’s going to be huge. At my club, he works the crowd like nobody I’ve ever seen. The club has three levels, and he’ll talk to one person, he’ll talk to another person, and he’ll connect a person from each level. He’s very quick-witted, and he can say anything and it still comes off as friendly and funny.
Jon Lovitz on… playing sleazy characters
How much of Jon Lovitz goes into those roles? Uh, well, nothing! I’m not like that – I guess I don’t like people like that so I’m good at making fun of them. I’m honest and upfront and not sleazy. I don’t know why I get those parts. [Laughs]. I keep getting them, though.
Jon Lovitz on… his time at Saturday Night Live
I was in a theatre group called The Groundlings. Then I got the show and went from a 99-seat theatre to performing on live TV in front of millions of people. It’s a legendary show and I never thought I’d be on it. I just couldn’t believe it. But it was very exciting. I mean, it was just huge.
Jon Lovitz on… meeting his hero
Woody Allen is the whole reason I became a comedian. I saw his movie Take the Money and Run when I was 13 and I said, ‘I want to be a comedian like Woody Allen.’ And 29 years later I got to do a movie [Small Time Crooks, see below] with him. I was in heaven. I don’t normally walk around smiling – my face is pretty plain – but when I was on that set I couldn’t stop smiling. I was making him laugh and he let me know that I made him laugh, so he really made it a very enjoyable experience. In fact after that movie I felt like I could quit. Goal achieved, you know?
Jon Lovitz on… no regrets
I’m proud of all the work I’ve done. There are certain movies I did that I thought would do well and didn’t. When I left SNL, I did the movie Mom and Dad Save the World and it was a huge bomb. I had to choose between the two, so… But you never know. The script was great, but they changed it and didn’t really [promote] it. So that stuff I regret but no, on the whole I don’t have any regrets. I think maybe I should’ve done [my own] sitcom when I had the chance, but I didn’t want to at the time cos I was just doing movies. Now I’d like to, but they’re not making them.
Jon Lovitz on… his Dubai show
I make fun of myself, I make fun of everybody. I play the piano and sing funny songs. I would say my act is smart and also very silly. That’s the kind of humour I like, as opposed to silly and dumb.