American all-rounder Lovitz makes Dubai debut
This week sees the debut performance of comedian Jon Lovitz in the Middle East. The American funnyman performs live at the Madinat Arena in Dubai tomorrow night, as part of the emirate's Comedy Club series by AEG Live Middle East.
But there is more to the American star than just jokes. Lovitz is also an actor, voice actor, and singer – known for roles in everything from Saturday Night Live (SNL) to The Simpsons – and recently, he also added 'businessman' to his CV.
Emirates Business met up with Lovitz ahead of the show.
So how's your first time in Dubai?
I just got in from LA last night, so I haven't seen much of the place yet. I've never been here before, but have heard so much about it. Everything has been great though, and everybody has been really nice. I like it.
This is also your first time in the Middle East. Did you have any reservations about coming to the region, considering it is not portrayed in the best light over in the US?
People tend to not know much about the outside world, because America is so big. People here can learn about American history, as well as their own history, just like people in Europe can know so much about their own history, as well as about the Middle East, for example. But in America, unless you're into international affairs, you tend to just learn your own history.
What can fans expect from your Dubai show?
I make fun of myself, and men and women, and politics, and sing funny songs about Bob Saget. I put in the act whatever I think is silly.
You've done it all: from movies to voice work. It was after those roles that you got into stand-up. How did it come about?
I used to do Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce routines in my college dorm. At various times I was going to try it after college. I was about to do it when I was in the Groundlings Theatre right before I got SNL. Then when I was on SNL, I'd ask Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy: "Do you think I could be a stand-up?" And they said, "Yeah, you can do it." So that was encouraging. But it was always the fear of just getting up there I had to overcome. Then later, because the movie roles were drying up, it kind of forced me. I had an agent and a manager and I said, "Listen, get me work. If I don't work, I'm going to run out of money in five years." And one told me to sell my house while the other told me to move to a smaller house. I decided, "I'm going to do stand-up. I'm not selling my house." So that motivated me.
That has obviously paid off, because you opened The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club in Universal City, California, recently.
Yes, I opened my own club in June. I'm there every Wednesday except if I have been booked to do a job. It's got a Hawaiian theme, and my business partner manages it, and we run it.
You opened your club during the year of the global financial crisis. Did that have an impact on ticket sales?
That's an interesting question, because it comes and goes. Obviously there are months when business is quieter than others, but then there are also times, like December, when it is the holiday season so more people are going out. But during these hard economic times, comedy tends to do well, as people want to laugh.
There has been a rising trend in the so-called stand-up in your living room in the region, where TV networks are buying the rights to more comedy shows than ever. Do you think this trend will continue?
It has been around in the States for years. Comedians like it, because it gives them more exposure and get them out there. But you also have to keep on coming up with more and more new material if you're always on TV.
What do you think about YouTube then? Many comedians do not like having their material uploaded because it ruins their act. Do you agree?
Absolutely. I don't like people uploading my stuff on the web, because it can be damaging if a joke is cut and taken out of context.
Apart from SNL, you've featured in roles, such as The Wedding Singer, Friends and The Simpsons. Tell us more.
For the film Adam Sandler called me up and wanted me to do it. And with Friends, Lisa Kudrow's brother and I were best friends at 11, so I was friends with her, and I had also made a movie with Courtney Cox in 1988. They asked me to do a part in the show. It was the first season, the eighth episode I think, and I was the most famous person on that show. I thought I was doing them a favour. But by the time it aired, it had become huge, so when I returned years later, I had to beg them to come back on. It was annoying, because everybody would just say hello and that's it. They were saying that it was because they were in the middle of contract negotiations, but it was just strange. It wasn't a friendly environment.
Which characters did you enjoy doing in The Simpsons?
Artie Ziff, Marge's ex-prom date was a lot of fun, as was Llewellyn Sinclair, and his sister on an episode called A Streetcar Named Marge. It's funny seeing this yellow character and having my voice come out of it.
You also sang with Robbie Williams on his album, Swing When You're Winning.
I love to sing. My friend's sister was friends with Robbie, and he had hired my friend to do a video. She called me and said: "You're going to sing with Robbie Williams". I had no idea who he was! She told me he was the biggest star in Europe, but I didn't know who he was, because he never crossed over. And when she recommended me, he didn't know who I was either. We met and really got along, connecting over mutual things like difficulties with our fathers, for example. I sang and I asked him what he thought, and he said: "It's just getting better". That was really complimentary.
You went on to perform with him in The Royal Albert Hall in the UK.
I was very excited, but very nervous. It was a three-minute song, but it felt like it was over in a minute. He's very funny.
What's next for you?
I've finished a film called Casino Jack with Kevin Spacey and Kelly Preston, which is out later this year. I got along great with the director. Knowing that he wanted me… well, that makes you feel great. I never take any job for granted, and I'm always grateful for any role I receive.
-The Comedy Club featuring Jon Lovitz and Hal Sparks. Thursday, January 14, at the Madinat Arena, Dubai. Tickets start from Dh250. Call 04 210 8567
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