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May 02, 2019

Jon Lovitz on SNL, Adam Sandler, and why he hates TMZ

Dancing with David Bowie "blew me away."

Comedy SNL
Jon Lovitz Source/ICM

Jon Lovitz.

Dancing with David Bowie and tackling Madonna in Central Park are just some of the cool things Jon Lovitz has enjoyed doing over a quietly distinguished career in entertainment, which spans a generation.

Lovitz, 61, who will perform tonight through Saturday at Helium, has been a celebrity since being part of the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1985. 

The star of the cult classic “High School High” explains while calling from his Los Angeles home what it’s like to hang out in Mick Jagger’s apartment and beat up Andy Dick. And he reveals who is the nicest guy in Hollywood and the biggest creep in Los Angeles.       

Q: How crazy is it that John Singleton passed away at 51 and Larry King survived another heart attack at 85?

A: It’s sad. I know both of them. They’re both very nice. I’m glad Larry is okay. John was such a nice, talented guy. It’s a real tragedy. I would run into him and we would talk about getting together but never did.

Q: You were probably too tied up with your other celebrity friends.

A: I have so many celebrity friends because I worked with a lot of people that I really like. I’ve been fortunate.

Q: It all started with Saturday Night Live. What was the first show like?

A: I had my first big celebrity encounter. Madonna hosted the first SNL show I did. We were shooting in Central Park at 2:30 in the morning. Madonna is driving. I jump out of the hood of her car and and tackle her. Sean Penn was watching from the trailer. I’m thinking, ‘uh oh. I’m jumping all over Madonna.’ I became friends with him and Penny Marshall, who was there. She and I became good friends. She was amazing.

Q: You had your first prominent role in a film in Marshall’s “Jumping Jack Flash.”

A: Yes. That was because of Penny.

Q: When did you realize that you made it?

A: I got a call from Jerry Hall and she invited (SNL cast members) Dennis (Miller) and Nora (Dunn) over to their apartment. Jerry had just hosted SNL, Mick says, ‘I have a new album coming out, do you want to hear it?’ I was thrilled. I asked Dennis if he was thinking the same thing I was when we left, which was that we were dead broke a year-and-a-half ago and now we’re hanging out in Mick Jagger’s apartment.

Q: Didn’t you use to hang out at the Columbus Cafe in New York, which was crawling with celebrities during the ‘80s and ‘90s?

A: Yes. I met Danny Aiello, Tony Danza and David Bowie there.What killed me was that David Bowie was such a regular guy. I remember talking to him for about a half-hour. I said, ‘you’re nothing like your persona.’ I asked him if he just wrote theatrically for his musical productions, like Ziggy Stardust and he said that he did. 

Q: What’s the wildest thing you did with someone like Bowie?

A: I was hanging out with Dana Carvey, Dennis Miller, David Bowie and Mick Jagger and David says, ‘hey, let’s go dancing.’ David, who was so classy, was all dressed up, and we went out dancing and it blew me away.

Q: Why don’t you write a book about your experiences?

A: I’ve been asked about doing one but the experiences are private. I don’t want everyone to know about them. 

Q: That’s the opposite approach of TMZ, which is all about exploitation.

A: (The founder of TMZ) Harvey Levin and TMZ try to ruin people’s careers. I think Harvey Levin is a giant piece of shit. He tried to set me up when I was relaxing on the beach in Miami. He sent three topless women over to me and they said, 'give us a hug.' I declined. I saw that there was a photographer hiding out. Levin has no morals. He’s a pig. Harvey Levin is so delusional. He says, ‘why do celebrities come to restaurants that they know we’ll be at?’ Well, they want to go to the restaurant. Nobody becomes an actor hoping to be on TMZ. Some people handle TMZ well but I never have.

Q: You also had issues with Andy Dick.

A: Things came to a head with Andy. I lost my temper (Lovitz pummeled Dick in a bar a decade ago) and I’m not proud of it. We talked afterward. He apologized and we made up. 

Q: Why did your show “The Critic” get cancelled since it was funny, well-reviewed and had good ratings?

A: That is a great question. When “The Critic” was cancelled, it was a shock. ABC loved it and it was cancelled after 7 episodes aired. Fox picked it up and put it on after “The Simpsons,” which was the perfect fit. At its peak it had a 14 rating and held 90 percent of “The Simpsons” audience. Shows would beg for a number that good. They cancelled a hit show. I never understood that.

Q: You guested on some of the greatest shows of all time, “Seinfeld” and “The Larry Sanders Show.” How much fun was it appearing on such iconic programs?

A: I enjoyed it but I wasn’t doing much television at the time. I would do a show like “Seinfeld” since it was so popular and Larry Sanders was just such a brilliant show. I remember when Larry David called me and asked me to appear on the Seinfeld episode I was on. He told me that I would be playing a character that was diagnosed with cancer. When he finds out that he doesn’t have cancer, he pretends that he still has it because people are nice to him. I told David that was the sickest and funniest concept. Garry Shandling was an old friend, who wrote a perfect part for me on his show. I was also on “Friends” during its early days. I’ve been good friends with David Kudrow, who is Lisa Kudrow's brother, for most of my life. I thought it would be fun for Lisa Kudrow’s parents to see me on a show with her.

Q: You actually have a non-celebrity friend.

A: Yes. David isn’t a celebrity. I have non-celebrity friends.

Q: You’re in so many Adam Sandler films. What is Sandler like?

A: Adam is the best. He works harder than anyone and he's so nice. There’s no one like him. I remember when he was doing “Operaman" on SNL, I told him how much I loved it and I wished I could do it. He said, ‘do you want to do it with me?’ No one else would have asked that. I’ve been in a bunch of his movies. One time I said, ‘I need to be in a hit. Will you put me in your next movie?’ He said, ‘sure.’ He did it. Nobody does that. He’s the nicest guy in Hollywood.

Q: Since you’ve been such a busy working actor, why did you even bother doing stand-up?

A: I had an agent and a manager that gave up on me. I told them that I needed more work or I would go broke. The advice they gave me was to sell my house and downsize while they were buying massive houses. So I’ve been doing stand-up for 15 years. I tell jokes. I sing funny songs. I talk about what’s going on socially and just try to have a good time.

Jon Lovitz appears tonight through Saturday at Helium, 2031 Sansom street, Philadelphia. Tickets are $25 tonight and $30 Friday and Saturday. Show times are  8 p.m. tonight, 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday. For more information, 215-496-9001,