Jon Lovitz is not dead.
Never mind that the comic actor was named by Steve Martin as one of several deceased “Saturday Night Live” alums in the show’s recent 40th anniversary special.
It was all a gag.
Lovitz will be at the Tacoma Comedy Club this weekend for four shows of stand-up and a little piano playing.
Lovitz was a fixture on “SNL” in the mid to late 1980s where he created some of its most memorable characters, including Master Thespian and compulsive liar Tommy Flanagan.
He left to pursue an acting career which, while not as high profile as other “SNL” luminaries, has kept him busy for the past couple of decades.
We caught up with Lovitz via phone from Los Angeles.
Whose idea was it to put you in the “SNL” memoriam piece?
A: They told me about it and I started laughing. This is one of those dark, edgy jokes they used to do on the show. It’s so wrong, but it’s so funny. But this time I’m the joke. It plays on Steve Martin’s character, his comic persona, which is an arrogant idiot. I was honored he mentioned me.
Are we going to see any of your SNL characters in Tacoma?
A: No, I tried to do that in the beginning, but it just didn’t work. Jimmy Breslin told me that people will come to see your stand-up act because they want to hear what you have to say. In my 20s, all I thought about was acting and trying to make it. I wasn’t paying attention to what was happening in the world. Now, if something happens that I think is ridiculous, I’m going to put it in my act. I also made a decision to not be a certain kind of comedian like observational or political. I’m just going to be funny the way I’m funny. I play the piano and sing funny songs.
I understand you cover racism in your stand-up act?
A: Yes, and the words you can’t say and all that. It’s irony. I didn’t plan on it. (In college surrounded by a multitude of ethnicities) we would make fun of (racism) because it was so ridiculous. We were all friends. I hate racism and I think it’s horrible. I’m Jewish. I make fun of myself.
Speaking of racism, you have a part in Adam Sandler’s new movie, “The Ridiculous 6,” (a parody of the western “The Magnificent Seven”). It was in the news recently because some Native American actors walked off the set, apparently disturbed by racist stereotypes.
A: I wasn’t there but they were extras, not the actors. I don’t know why they walked off, but the whole movie is a satire, a western spoof, a comedy. One of the Native American character’s name is Smoking Fox, because she’s hot. It’s silly jokes. Vanilla Ice plays Mark Twain and speaks like Vanilla Ice. I play the wealthiest man in the United States, sort of a bad guy. Whitney Cummings plays my wife.
How did “SNL” change your life?
A: I went from being broke and unknown to making a great living and becoming famous and having a movie career. I say to Lorne Michaels, “Thank you for giving me the career I dreamed of.” Now that I look back, I can’t believe I was on it. When you’re there you feel like you are in the heart beat of show business. Lorne has all these friends that just show up and hang out. I remember Lorne coming up to me and saying, “Mick Jagger is down in the studio. Can you show him how to do The Liar.” You don’t hear stuff like that anywhere else. At the reunion show, Paul McCartney remembered me. It still blows me away. I was so proud to be there.
I caught your recent guest role on “Hawaii Five-0” where you played a harmless criminal goof. Do you get typecast as that sort of character a lot?
A: On “SNL” I played all sorts of different characters. But as far as people perceive me or cast me, they tend to cast me as a likeable sleazebag. He’s a jerk, but I make him so harmless and nice so it’s funny. If it’s just a jerk, he’s not funny.
Are you OK with that?
A: Well yeah. You want to play different parts, but at the same time it’s a compliment. It means you’ve created your own style and you stand out. But you could say that about a lot of people: Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro. I’m not comparing myself to them. I’m not delusional. I’m just saying even the biggest movie stars have a persona. My persona is an arrogant idiot.
Out of all your characters the one I see most often on TV news — personified in real people — is Tommy Flanagan. Do you see the spirit of Tommy today in the real world?
A: Yes, when people lie. I don’t lie. I can’t stand it when people lie. I’m naïve. I used to tell my dad something I’d heard and he’d say, “Yeah, it sounds like they’re lying.” And I’d act like he was the idiot, “Dad, why would they lie?” And he’d go, “Jon, just because you’re honest doesn’t mean everyone else is.” It still bothers me when people lie.
Where did the character come from?
A: I was watching the movie, “The Thin Man” and there was a character who said, “Yeah, that’s the ticket.” And I thought it would be funny if there was a Liars Anonymous where someone would get up and tell their story and then start lying about it. A Hollywood lawyer told me “Your character is really popular in Hollywood.” Why? “Because everyone lies in Hollywood.” And I said, “They do?”
You didn’t know that?
A: Now, I know I was naïve. Lie? Yeah, they do. Like everything they say. You go to a meeting with agents, and then after you say to your manager, “OK, what did that actually mean?” You can’t take anything anyone in Hollywood says on face value. When the Brian Williams thing broke, people said Tommy Flanagan should be the new NBC anchor. It’s flattering that people still find it relevant.
Last question: How’s your wife, Morgan Fairchild?
A: We just had our third child.