ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday Night Live is a fun gig for up-and-coming comics, but it's not the safest place to work. Just look at some of the hilarious people who either didn't make the cut or didn't last long: Jim Carrey, Stephen Colbert, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Carell, Kathy Griffin, John Goodman and Sarah Silverman.
Kevin Nealon, who patented memorable characters including "Mr. Subliminal," Franz of "Hans and Franz" and "Mr. No Depth Perception" while anchoring Weekend Update, lasted nine years. He never stopped performing stand-up comedy, even during SNL and a seven-year run on Showtime's Weeds, and brings his analytical and biting wit to the Palladium on Saturday.
"All I ever wanted to do was stand-up," said Nealon, 61, in a phone interview. "It kind of charges me and gives me a rush."
As a child growing up in St. Louis, Nealon couldn't get enough of Jerry Lewis and Stanley Myron Handleman. Nealon took a variety of jobs after college, including one as a bartender at a comedy club, where he once served drinks to another idol, Andy Kaufman.
"I knew he was into transcendental meditation and stuff, so I asked him about that," Nealon said. "He talked for 40 minutes. I was not listening, but I was looking at a mole on his face."
Some jobs stayed in his memory more than others.
"I worked for a temp agency called Manpower," Nealon said. At a parts warehouse, he recalled, "We scraped acid off batteries and shoveled dog crap off mufflers."
But you can converse with co-workers while you do that, which makes all the difference, he said.
A couple of big breaks include appearing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and meeting with SNL producer Lorne Michaels. As a cast member, he learned to stay relaxed at meetings.
"I might pitch the same idea every week," he said. "You don't want to throw out a good idea and have nobody get excited about it. It takes the wind out of your sails."
Nealon left SNL in 1994, but stayed in touch with buddies including Adam Sandler.
He sees SNL alum Dana Carvey (the other half of Hans and Franz) at least once a month at the Laugh Factory, and even ran into the musclemen's inspiration, Arnold Schwarzenegger, after he became governor.
On their reunion, Schwarzenegger greeted Nealon with a classic line of his own, Nealon said.
"He said, 'Don't be a girly man.' "
Contact Andrew Meacham at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.