The wise-cracking actor will be performing at Mark Ridley’s in Royal Oak this month.
Jon Lovitz is having a banner first few months of 2020. He returned to his home turf of Saturday Night Live to play Alan Dershowitz. He’s the wise-cracking voice behind a new game and he returns to Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak to perform his stand-up act on Sunday, March 22.
JN: A few weeks ago, the world was introduced to Little Diablo, a built-in sequence memory game marketed as “un-shut-up-able.” It features your voice. How did that come about?
Lovitz: Andy Breckman, who I worked with on Saturday Night Live and who created the TV series Monk and wrote the movie Rat Race that I was in, developed it when he started a toy company. He’s very inventive. You play it like the game Simon with the colored lights. And, as you’re playing it, you hear my voice heckling you and you can’t shut it off. It’s very funny. It’s pretty dirty and extremely annoying.
JN: That’s really cool. How many people can say they’ve had a toy created for them?
Lovitz: I know. It’s very exciting. I’ve had figures made of some of my characters from the Simpsons, but this is so fun. It makes me laugh, it’s so ridiculous. And it’s definitely for adults only.
JN: Like the two shows you will be performing at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle on Sunday, March 22? They’re being advertised as for the 18-plus crowd.
Lovitz: Yes, It’s rated R for adults. It’s not like it’s filthy-dirty or anything, it’s just that the audience is coming to hear my sense of humor so that’s what I’m presenting.
JN: What are you going to cover?
Lovitz: Anything I think is funny. I talk about a variety of topics including men and women, sex and politics. I play the piano and sing funny songs. I make fun of myself. I talk a little about religion, including dealing with the Nazis in Charlottesville.
JN: Would you say you have a particular style of comedy?
Lovitz: I just decided I didn’t want to limit myself to one genre, so I do a little bit of everything. My act ends up being more about me and my opinions. I talk about what’s going on in the election and being Jewish. I feel like we’re going through a huge social change again in the society, like the hippies in the ‘60s. So now I talk about what we’re going through — and trying to understand it all — from my perspective at age 62.
JN: Tell us how you got to play Alan Dershowitz on the first Saturday Night Live show of 2020.
Lovitz: My good friend Paul Herman, who was in the movie The Irishman on Netflix, invited me to the Golden Globes Netflix after-party. It was a lot of fun. I ran into Colin Jost, who’s the head writer on Saturday Night Live and a host of the “Weekend Update” segment. He said to me, “You know, we’re always bringing your name up and we’d love for you to be on the show.” So, I said, “I would love to, just let me know when.” Two weeks later, I’m on the final day of shooting a guest spot on A.P. Bio, which is co-produced by [SNL’s Executive Producer] Lorne Michaels, and my manager calls me and says SNL wants me to be on the show the next day to play Alan Dershowitz.
JN: The next day?
Lovitz: That’s what I said. It was crazy. I got the call at 11:30 a.m. on Friday and I rushed home to pack and find someone to take care of my dog and cats and get to LAX airport by 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight to New York.
JN: Okay, walk our readers through the big day at Saturday Night Live.
Lovitz: I had been working on my Alan Dershowitz impression all day for the 3:45 p.m. rehearsal. After rehearsal, Steve Higgins, the head writer said, “We don’t want you to imitate Alan Dershowitz; we hired you to be funny just the way you are.” It was like when Chevy Chase was on the show and they didn’t want him to really imitate Gerald Ford. That’s why when we were live and I came on and introduced myself as Alan Dershowitz, I just started laughing, because I was doing a zero attempt to impersonate him, so it just made me laugh.
JN: What was it like being back on SNL?
Lovitz: It was really thrilling. I thought the sketch was great and a lot of fun. I was really excited to do it. The last time I was back, it was for the SNL 40th anniversary special in 2015. This was like being back home. When you’re on that show, you’re not just an actor, you’re helping to create it every week. It’s a very personal thing. It’s the biggest break of your life — you get a career because of it.
When you go to the eighth floor, there are all the cast pictures on the wall and, since I was on the show for five years, I’m in five different pictures. It’s like if you’re an athlete on a team, and you come back to the team that you’ve played for, it was very emotional.
At rehearsal, Lorne [Michaels] saw me and we just started laughing. I said, “This is so weird,” and he said, “I know, it’s like a time warp, like no time has passed.” I loved it. It really felt great.
JN: What other parts did you like on SNL?
Lovitz: SNL is really into satirizing politics. They said, “You look like Michael Dukakis,” so I played him as the Democratic nominee. Chanukah Harry was a funny character. Al Franken wrote that.
JN: When did you start doing stand-up?
Lovitz: I left SNL when I was 32 and started doing stand-up 14 years later. I would get onstage and be so nervous. It was so nerve-wracking. I started at the Laugh Factory once a week for three months, but I stopped because it was very difficult. Then the next year, I started up again and I stuck with it. At age 46, it was really like starting over. It was tough, but I did it. It was really hard. It was like learning a whole other craft.
JN: Who gave you tricks of the trade?
Lovitz: Dana Carvey is one of my best friends. He’s a great stand-up. He said that the most important thing for being on stage is to have fun and set up the topic in as few words as possible. Then stay on topic and do a lot of jokes before you switch to another topic. Those tips made a giant difference—they literally saved me years because, otherwise, you’d have to figure out that on your own.
JN: How many shows do you do a year?
Lovitz: Usually two-to-three weekends a month.
JN: Your paternal grandparents were from Romania and emigrated to Florida and your maternal grandmother came from Hungary in 1913. You’re a reform Jew and you talk about Judaism in your act. What are your thoughts about anti-Semitism today?
Lovitz: I really feel that anti-Semitism is on the rise because I think that people misunderstand what the Jewish religion is about. I’ve had people say to me, “Oh, you think you’re better than someone else because you’re the “chosen people?” And they resent it. It’s a misuse and misinterpretation of the word “chosen.” I don’t think Jews are the chosen people. They’ve “chosen” to follow the Ten Commandments. You’ve “chosen” to respect people, life, plants and animals. You could be born Jewish, but if you don’t choose to be a moral person in any social situation, well what does that mean? Nothing. So, getting the word out, I think that would go a long way towards eliminating some anti-Semitism.
Click here for tickets to Jon Lovitz at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, Sunday, March 22.