Once ‘The King of Queens,' veteran comedian Kevin James now juggles a film career, standup performances and family
You know him as "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" and Doug Heffernan on the CBS sitcom "The King of Queens." His parents named him Kevin George Knipfing and now comedian. Comedian Kevin James is one of the most recognizable (and possibly most well-liked) guys on the standup circuit today. Known for his physical comedy and observational humor, James has made a healthy living playing the underdog. The Emmy-nominated actor broke into films in 2005 starring as a love-struck loser opposite Will Smith's smooth operator in "Hitch." He's since headlined in movies such as "Zookeeper" (2011), "Grown Ups" (2010), "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (2007) and the upcoming "Grown Ups 2" (July 2013).
Folio Weekly: Is there anything you won't make fun of? Any topic that you think goes too far?
Kevin James: I don't think. Just because of where my humor lies. I'm not one of those people necessarily who goes out and pushes the envelope just to get a reaction. I've always just kind of done stuff that I find funny — you know, that's funny to me. A lot of that is observational-type things in my life and, of course, I exaggerate them a little bit.
F.W.: Tell us what we can expect of your standup performance this go-around.
K.J.: I've been writing like crazy — writing a lot of new stuff — and just been having fun performing it. I'll do standup here and there periodically, but this is the first time I've been able to kind of focus on my standup and really dedicate some time to writing new material and working on developing it. I'm excited to put it out there and see how it does.
F.W.: Any new direction you're taking or topics you haven't covered before?
K.J.: A lot of my stuff is about my family changing with my kids — dealing with being a parent to three kids. It's basically the only reason I had them — for the material. I was running out of material. No, they're great. I gotta say they've provided with incredible material. They just don't let me down. I have two daughters, 7 and 5, and I have a little boy who just turned 2.
F.W.: You have "Grown Ups 2" coming out in July. Can you give us a little teaser of how that's going to play out compared to the first movie?
K.J.: This one's just so much bigger as far as cameos and people in the movie — Taylor Lautner and Shaquille O'Neal. It's about Adam [Sandler]'s character … his family moves back into their hometown where they grew up and it basically all takes place in one day — like "American Graffiti," where the whole movie takes place in one day. It's about our kids growing up and dealing with what they got to deal with, and we're still the buffoons that we are. It was unbelievable fun making that movie.
F.W.: Do you ever have to deal with hecklers, and if so, how do you do that?
K.J.: In the beginning of my career, I had to deal with them all the time. It's just a part of the game. You gotta deal with it. But I have to say, the nicer the theaters are and the more that the people come to see you, it's less and less. I haven't had to deal with hecklers in a really long time. Every once in a while, if I'm in Vegas, you get a drunk person kind of spouting off, but even they're kind of nice. They're not that bad. They just want to be part of the show for a minute.
F.W.: How long is your show?
K.J.: I do about an hour and I have an opening guy who does about 20 to 25 minutes — an hour-and-a-half altogether. Most of the time, I travel with this guy named Richie Minervini. He owned the first comedy club that I ever went up at. A lot of the comedy club owners were not the greatest people, and it was very difficult to get stage time back in — I started in 1989. … And Richie was just completely the opposite. He was the guy who, even though I sucked horribly, was just a very generous man. He was like, "Don't worry about your material right now. Just get up on stage and work on your stage presence and get comfortable in front of an audience." It paid off eventually, and I'm grateful to him.