RALEIGH, N.C. — People who know about my love of comedy are sometimes surprised to hear that I don’t watch popular television sketch shows or sitcoms.
For instance, I have seen a grand total of three Seinfeld episodes, with no desire to see any more, and I can’t remember the last time I watched Saturday Night Live.
My comedy fandom is almost exclusively focused on stand-up, but there are iconic SNL characters who are almost universally beloved and on Thursday afternoon, I interviewed one of them.
Tim Meadows, who is headlining Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh this week, was an SNL cast member from 1991-2000 and is probably best known for playing Leon Phelps, aka, The Ladies Man.
Meadows’ list of impersonations is lengthy and eclectic, playing famous entertainers (Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington), athletes (Julius Erving, Tiger Woods) and political figures (Colin Powell, Nelson Mandela).
Even though I’ve never been more than a sporadic SNL viewer, I distinctly remember loving Meadows in pretty much every sketch in which he was involved and I’m of the opinion that The Ladies Man movie is funny, reviews be damned. He was also fantastic playing Mr. Duvall in Mean Girls, which got glowing reviews, if you’re into that sort of thing.
On Thursday, Meadows and I discussed if crowds in clubs ask him to do SNL bits, the staying power of TV and movie roles versus the fleeting nature of a stand-up set and more.
Enjoy the interview, follow Meadows on Twitter and don’t forget The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes at the end.
Tony Castleberry: Do people in crowds ever make requests for Leon Phelps or other characters?
Tim Meadows: Yeah, occasionally that happens. I always tell the audience that I’ll probably do it more than likely, but I don’t do it when people yell it at me. [interviewer laughs] It would be like seeing the (Rolling) Stones and not hearing (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. You do stuff people wanna see.
TC: Do requests from crowds throw you off or are you used to it?
TM: I wouldn’t say I’ve gotten used to it. I guess it’s just, I know it can happen, but it doesn’t happen so often that it’s something that’s in the front of my mind when I go on stage. People know me from a lot of different things so it varies, but people are happy when I do the Ladies Man character.
TC: I’m sure. Do you still watch Saturday Night Live?
TM: Yeah, I watch it pretty much every week. I think I’m a couple of episodes behind.
TC: What do you think of the show now and the current cast?
TM: I think they’re great. I think they look like they’re having fun. The writing is really sharp and funny. I like the new additions they made. It’s fun to watch the newer people get their feet on the ground and sort of get into the groove of the show. I thought the Jessica Chastain episode was really funny. I think that’s the last one I’ve seen.
TC: Is somebody laughing at a scene you did on TV or in a movie different from the laugh you get at a stand-up show?
TM: I don’t know. I haven’t been to a lot of places where I’ve seen people watch me in a movie or on TV, you know what I mean? It’s rewarding when you see a movie that you’re in with an audience and people respond to it, but getting a laugh in a comedy club or theater, it’s great. It’s a good feeling. It’s an immediate reaction to something they just heard you say. There’s no editing and there’s no camera tricks. It’s just you and the audience.
TC: Stand-up is a high-wire act. Even for a seasoned performer, it could go either way so I imagine it still feels good when a joke lands, doesn’t it?
TM: Yeah, it feels good, but I will say there are performances on movies and TV shows that I’ve watched that I think are as funny to me now as they were originally. I’m happy that I’ve done things that people like and have liked for years, you know what I mean? That’s a rewarding feeling to know that that will be around to make them laugh long after I’m gone whereas doing a stand-up show is rewarding because it’s an immediate thing, then it’s gone. I know that’s a strange, philosophical answer. I’m sorry if it went on too long.
TC: No, that’s exactly the response I was looking for. I love a philosophical answer. What do you think about Raleigh and Goodnights?
TM: I just remember the last time I was there I enjoyed it. When I heard they were asking me to come back, I didn’t have a reaction of, “Oh no, I don’t want to go there. That place is horrible.” [interviewer laughs] I have nice memory of it so I hope it’s good. I hope it’s fun.
Here it is, The Best Tweet I Can Find in Five Minutes: