INT: Jon Lovitz
Jon Lovitz was always one of my favorite cast-members from the halcyon days of late 80s/early 90s "Saturday Night Live". But like so many veterans of the show, he never really did find his niche in the post-SNL world. His greatest triumph was the short-lived animated series "The Critic", which enjoyed some success before Fox pulled the plug and relegated it to cult classic status.
This week he returns to the big screen with THE BENCHWARMERS, the latest wacky offering from the Happy Madison crew. A few weeks ago Lovitz talked about his experience working with fellow SNL alums David Spade and Rob Schneider. Check it out.
So you and baseball movies, huh?
Yeah. Well, I I like balls.
What was the particular attraction of Benchwarmers for you?
actually read the script, and when they sent it to me, they said, Look at
the role of
Could you relate to this guy? Could you relate to the experiences of this guy?
Could I relate to it? Well no, because hes a billionaire and Im a trillionaire! I had to come down to his level I felt bad for the guy. Well you cant play a billionaire if youre a millionaire. You dont know what its like. But you have to at least be there or above. So I had to go, What was it like five years ago when I was poor?
Do you collect anything?
Yeah, I like watches and memorabilia and cars. Im into that. The stupid thing about cars is I started working and I met Eddie Murphy and he had all these cars. Jay Leno had all these cars. So I said, All right, Im gonna get cars. Thats what youre supposed to do. So then I did and Jay Leno made fun of me. He said, Yeah, but Jon, I buy old cars. Youre buying new ones. Mine are going up in value. Yours are going down.
Was it cool to drive K.I.T.T. (the car from "Knight Rider")?
Well that was neat. It was neat meeting George Barris, because hes the guy who designed that car and the Batmobile. And hes a really nice man. And you know, hes like a legendary car designer. Hes been designing cars for movies for, I dont know, 50 years or more. All the most famous cars you've seen are his.
Was everyone on the set excited to see the Batmobile and K.I.T.T.?
Yeah, I was. I grew up in Encino and Tarzana, and when I was in like fifth and sixth grade, I went to this school, Wilbur Avenue in Tarzana. And Adam West who played Batman, his kids went to that school. So at Halloween wed have the Batmobile. So I was thrilled. I loved Batman. I had my Bat Ring. (laughs) I was 8 and I go to my mom, I want the Bat Ring! You know, with the big bat. So it was fun driving it, to actually get in it. But, theyre just old cars. I mean there wasnt actually...there was no jet. I couldnt eject anybody. Its all fake.
Is your love of baseball why youve done a couple of movies about the sport?
No, honestly, its not like I say, What movies are they making this year? And Ill pick: Ill do this, this and this! Its just you get offered stuff and then you go, Do I like the part? Is it a good script? How much money are they paying me? Frankly, thats part of it. Well it really is. And people go, Why? Is it always about the money? You go, Well, most of it. Because theyre buying a slot of time for three months. So you have that time to do something. And you cant do anything else while youre doing that project. So you say, Well then you gotta pay me what Im worth. And the reason why is because they say, Well we cant pay you. We dont have the money. You know, youre only playing a small role. And then the press junket comes around and they go, Can you do the publicity? Youre a big star! Thats happened to me a lot. And I finally said, Okay, sure, Ill do it for no money and I wont do any press. Its up to you. You know, you cant have it both ways.
Is it fun for you to reunite with guys like Rob Schneider and David Spade from the SNL days?
Oh yeah. Well I was never on the show with them, but Rob I knew. And then David Spade I was in Lost & Found and Dickie Roberts, so you know, Im friends with David. But Rob I know and Im friendly with. And I knew Dennis Dugan. Adam Sandlers the one who produced the movie and hes hired me a lot of times. We all say thank god for Adam. He hires his friends and keeps us working. Hes very generous that way. But then hell go, Well, I dont just do it because youre my friend. I think youre great. I say, I know. I just wanted to say that to make you feel good.
Youre doing standup every week. Is that where you feel most comfortable?
Well, no. I only started doing it the last two years. Yeah, I do a show at the Laugh Factory on Wednesdays at 8 in Hollywood. I really started doing it because, well, Ill just be honest with you. I wasnt working as much and one of my other ex-agents says I say, I gotta make money. And he says, Well, sell your house. And I go, Oh, Ill sell my house. In the meantime, you just bought a new mansion above me! Okay, thats a good idea. How about getting me work, not sell what I own? He says, Sell some of your cars. And I go, No. Eat me! Get me a job! So I needed the money. I always wanted to do it, but I was too afraid to do it. And also, even if youre not afraid to do it, you still have to know how to do it.
You have to know how to construct jokes and come up with material. And I never really felt ready. And then for some reason I finally felt ready. And then Dana Carvey is one of my best friends and hes been doing it for years, so he gave me some great tips. And so somehow I was able to pick it up quickly. I did like my fifth show and I was doing maybe 20 minutes at the Laugh Factory. And the owner there is named Jamie Masada. Hes been really generous to me and gave me the night at the Laugh Factory. I just thought, well Im just starting. So he said a friend of his said, How longs he been doing it? 20 years? He goes, No, this is his fifth show. Hes like, What? I go, Jimmy He goes, No, Jon, youre that good! I go, Well thats impossible! This is like my fifth time doing it.
Do you write new stuff every week or does some of it carry over?
No, its like an act. Because then you get hired out to do your show. I love it because, well first of all, its another source of income. Which, you know, I need. Its just great. You can say anything. Its like a total expression of who you are. No ones giving you notes, no ones editing you. You can just totally be funny the way youre funny. If you think of something on the spot, you can say it.
What kinds of things do you talk about?
God, everything. Well, politics .Im not astute, but its just my opinion. Women. I have a lot of opinions on that. Sex. Like premature ejaculation, I do stuff about that. I say, Thats just a disease that women made up. Which it is.
So its all the truth.
Yeah, its basically all true. The way I come up with material is Ill see something and if it makes me in my head go, What?! Like that kind of reaction or makes my mind go, Thats ridiculous! Or, What did he just say? That doesnt make any sense. Then that makes me think of stuff and then Dana taught me that then you have an idea like that and you try to expand it. Thats how you come up with more material. Just little stuff. Thats what I think helped me do it well...its very exciting. Its like a whole new career.
Its nice of Adam Sandler to put you in the supporting roles in the movies.
Its unbelievably nice. I always say, Thank you! And this time he goes, Look, look, look. Youre my friend, but Im not just doing it because I like you. I think youre great.
But when is Sandler giving you your own Happy Madison project?
I know, right?! Thats what I keep saying. I said, I think its time! But you know, its business I think it would be good business for him! He said, Its none of my business.
Do you still develop characters for yourself?
No, you still think of stuff, but theres nowhere to do them. Actually though, now there is. The standup. So thats whats fun. Although I dont really do characters in my standup. I mean Ill imitate some people, but its more of just me expressing myself. I mean you can do whatever you want. You know, I talk about politics, I talk about women, I make fun of myself. I sing songs. I used to sing all these songs about my manager being gay. Just to bug him. And then I started doing them in my act and I realized nobody knew who he was. So Bob Sagets there, and I say, Bob, can I make it up about you? Because no one knows who Mark Gerbitz is. He goes, Yeah, go ahead. So now its like 20 minutes of these songs about Bob Saget.
What role do you play in Southland Tales?
I play this psycho cop. Richard Kelly who wrote and directed Donnie Darko, this is his next movie. So he cast a lot of comedians in the roles because he said, If you can do Saturday Night Live and different comedy, I know you can do drama. He goes, I think comedic actors can do anything. So he cast me, Cheri OTeri, Nora Dunn, people like that. The main people in the movie are The Rock, you know, Dwayne Johnson, and Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seann William Scott. But then all these other roles Kevin Smith is in it. I saw a picture of him and hes unrecognizable. He plays this old man. Justin Timberlake is in it. Its the strangest cast.
Who do you interact with in the film?
Oh, with Cheri OTeri. But I play just this psycho cop. I look different. I saw some of the movie and I go, Well, thats my walk. I cant get rid of that. I look different, I talk different.
Was it fun to do?
Yeah it was. He said, You always have the same hair. And I said, Well yeah, I cant grow it out any differently. So he goes, Well I want your hair to be different. So I had to dye it like platinum. So then I said, well if Im gonna look different, Im gonna act different, Im gonna talk different. And so thats what I did. And then, I play this cop, and Im supposed to intimidate The Rock. Well hes huge! So I had to figure out how am I gonna intimidate him? The only way you can intimidate someone whos bigger then you is if they think youre insane. And then theyre like, That guys crazy! Who knows what hell do! So I tried to do that. Hes a good actor, so it looks like I intimidate him, but I dont think he was at all. Hes the nicest guy, Ill tell you that. Hes such a nice guy.
Do you think theyll ever resurrect The Critic?
No, The Critic, theyre not gonna do it again. That was disappointing. First it was on ABC. And ABC goes, We love it! Its the best! We love it! we love it! And then seven shows later its gone. They cancelled it. And then Fox picked it up, and it aired after The Simpsons. This was, I dont know, ten years ago. And it held 90% of The Simpsons audience, which is huge. And then they cancelled it anyway.
And Jim Brooks went to the head of the network and he goes, What are you doing? The show is a hit, and youre canceling it. And they couldnt figure out why they cancelled it. And then they said, well, the only reason maybe, is because we had a show where we made fun of short, bald gay men and the guy running the network is a short, bald gay man. I mean, thats really all we could figure. I go, Jim, why would they cancel it if its a hit? He goes, I dont know, Ive never seen anything like this. Its insane.
Are you doing any more animated voices?
Well Ive gone back and done some Simpsons. I like doing it. I mean, lets be honest, when I did The Simpsons, its me going, Hello, Im Artie Ziff! Im The Critic, Jay Sherman. Hello, Im Jay Sherman! Its the same guy. I know that. But Al Jean and Mike Reiss wrote The Critic and they were running The Simpsons. And originally it was going to be a live show, and I said, Well, is there a script? And then Jim Brooks says, Well were not gonna audition for you. I go, Well I know, but I dont know what it is. Youre describing it to me. It sounds funny. Can I read it? So I left and then Jim said, You better write a script. So they did and then I read it. And usually you dont laugh out loud at comedy scripts, but this thing was hilarious. I laughed out loud ten times, like really hard. I was just dying. And then they said, Were gonna make it animated now. So I said all right.
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