Why Kevin Nealon Can’t Wait To Return To His New England Roots Next Week

From “Saturday Night Live” to “Man with a Plan,” Kevin Nealon has had quite the storied career. The actor/comedian has certainly come a long way since his Hans and Franz days. Today, he can be seen on his YouTube show “Hiking with Kevin” where he chats with his friends (and big name celebrities), including Conan O’Brien, Adam Sandler and Dana Carvey. He is also preparing for the third season of “Man with a Plan,” which will start shooting this summer. Nealon will be performing stand up at City Winery next Friday.

Kevin NealonPhoto Credit: Kevin Nealon/Prodigy

We caught up recently with Nealon to chat about his days back on “Saturday Night Live,” the highlight of his career and why he’s looking forward to returning to New England next week.

“Hiking with Kevin” started out as a way for you to catch up with some friends, but the show has turned into a real talk show. What was your original intent when creating the show?

You’re right that it was just a way for me to catch up with friends. It started out when I asked Matthew Modine to go for a hike. I thought it would be fun if I was interviewing him, but we were both so out of breath that it was funny. I asked him about the movies that he turned down and if there were any he regretted and we talked about “Wall Street,” “Big” with Tom Hanks and some other movies. I recorded that and that was the starting point. I have done 31 hikes and the first season ended with Jimmy Kimmel. Right now, I am banking hikes for the next season.

When you were young, you thought you wanted to pursue a career in music. What made you decide to go for comedy instead?

I used to go to coffee houses and saw people getting up and singing. I played the guitar and was kind of embraced, but really had so much fun doing standup comedy. Telling jokes came a little more naturally to me than music. It took a little time to get over performing on a stage in front of people, but I knew that was what I wanted to do. I went through years of anxiety, nervousness and indigestion (laughs).

Who were some of your favorite comedians that have inspired you along the way?

There have been so many throughout the years like Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman and Mel Brooks, but every comedian has to find their own style and voice.

How did it feel when you were first cast on “Saturday Night Live?”

It was something I was not even pursuing. They were looking for sketch comics and I was doing stand up. I felt lucky to be able to share the stage with so many great people who were on that same stage like Gilda Radner and Chevy Chase.

Did you ever think Hans and Franz would be as big a hit as they were?

You never know on that show. You always hope for a great response from the audience, but you never know how it will go.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Doing “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. I had always aspired to be a stand up comedian and once I did “The Tonight Show,” it sort of validated you. I got applause breaks and we sat on the couch and talked some more. Nothing has superseded that experience. There was nothing quite like that thrill.

You spent much of your younger years in Connecticut, so how does it feel returning to your New England roots?

I love New England. It really is my home. When I was younger, every summer, we used to visit my grandparents in Kittery, so I love coming back.

Tell us what we can expect to see when “Man with a Plan” returns for Season 3.

I really don’t know what they’re thinking about. I hear ripples in the air that it may be edgier this season. We will be taping in August. It’s currently listed as a mid-season replacement, so I am not sure when it will be aired.