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Kevin Nealon says about playing his character, Doug, on Showtime’s Weeds, “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime character.”
Jordan Althaus/Showtime

Kevin Nealon brings a little levity to Showtime’s hit series Weeds with his signature brand of humor.

There are certainly flashier comics than Kevin Nealon — funnymen whose on- and off-screen hijinks have spattered more ink across the collective consciousness. But when it comes to deadpan hilarity and low-key wisenheimering, the Saturday Night Live alum (remember musclemen Hans and Franz?) and Weeds ne’er-do-well (the show returned to Showtime last month) proves that nobody pumps us up more than he does.

American Way: Before your big break, you were a bartender at the legendary Improv comedy club in Hollywood. Not a bad place to get your comedic education, right?
Kevin Nealon: I had never made a drink in my life, but I hung out at the Improv a lot and the bartender kind of took me under his wing. I made a little money and got to watch the best comics do their thing: Steve Martin, Robin Williams, all of those guys. One night, somebody didn’t show up for their set and the owner asked me if I was ready to go.

“He’s like a cockroach.
He just keeps surviving.”

AW: When did you know you had to be a comedian?
KN: I used to memorize the jokes in the back of Parade magazine when I was a kid. It was a column called “My Favorite Jokes,” and comics who were hot at the time would share the jokes that made them laugh. I’d memorize them and then at neighborhood parties, I’d work out the material: “Hey, did you hear about the guy who stole the fire truck?” People would go, “Whoa, are you serious?” And I’d say, “Yeah, yeah, he was arrested two hours later by the guy who stole a cop car.”

AW: How has comedy changed since you started out?
KN: Back then, jokes were jokes: There were setups, and there were punch lines. Sometimes there were one-liners. But they were jokes.  Now, a lot of standup doesn’t have jokes. It’s all attitude. A lot of it’s funny, but it’s not jokes.

AW: Your Weeds character, Doug, is a wickedly funny concoction of dangerously bold and dangerously stupid.
KN: I’m not like Doug. I don’t really know any guys like that guy. But I know there are guys like him out there in the world. He’s like a cockroach. He just keeps surviving and he just keeps turning up, and he’s so much fun to play. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime character.