News Column

Chris Kattan succeeds with stand-up

August 23, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 23--Chris Kattan can't hide from his celebrated "Saturday Night Live" characters, so he embraces them. But only for a fleeting moment.

"I like to be honest, and right off the bat, I like to get it over with," Kattan explains. "I say, 'Let's get this all out of the way so I can do the show. Let's talk about Mango and Mr. Peepers and then we can have a show.' It's brief, it's fun and then we start into the next level of telling stories."

After decades doing sketch comedy for "SNL," as well as The Groundlings in Los Angeles, the 42-year-old Kattan gave stand-up his first shot two years ago. And even though people are selling out clubs to see the guy who played Mango and Gay Hitler, they're finding themselves quite enamored with the real Kattan. Critics and audience members alike have hailed his fun, feel-good approach.

Kattan says he's been enjoying himself just as much touring the comedy club circuit.

"I missed being in a front of a live audience. You just get so much from doing live comedy," he says. "There were some bumps and thumps, but now I'm really good at it and I'm headlining."

A wave of former "SNL" cast members recently have made the jump (or jump back) to stand-up. Kevin Nealon, Jon Lovitz, Tim Meadows, Finesse Mitchell and even Rob Schneider immediately come to mind. Kattan, however, is striving to carve out his own identity with a mix of honest storytelling, physical humor and his great ability to improvise, three tools which helped him excel throughout his sketch career. Kattan says he crafted his style in the image of legends like Eddie Murphy, Steve Martin and Sam Kinison, who did the same.

Additionally, his show only has a few set jokes. He discusses growing up in the Bronx, 9/11, his favorite Judd Apatow films, why he should be credited for Tina Fey's success (it's just a joke, people) and the 20 puppies he once "dropped off at Jimmy's house." From that springboard, Kattan simply plays with the crowd.

"It's like driving a Maserati," he explains. "There'll be times when I jump out of the car, dance on top of it, run over somebody, put 'em in the Maserati and keep on driving."

However, there's one inevitable, unexplainable variable that always creeps up during his set.

"It always gets so dirty and I don't know how," he laughs. "It's not me, but other people start getting into dirty things. It's so funny."

A swelling stand-up career isn't the only iron in Kattan's fire. He just finished writing a pilot with Paul Dinello, the head writer for "The Colbert Report" and the former scribe of the cult-favorite sitcom "Strangers With Candy." Kattan feels confident that this new show will be able to fetch a big-name producer like Michael Schur or his good friend Jimmy Fallon. He wouldn't give away too many details, but he says the sitcom will be based around an eccentric ensemble very much in the vein of "30 Rock" and "Parks and Rec," the show which Schur co-created.

Kattan holds high hopes that the pilot will launch him back into the starring role after a string of lackluster movies -- he's the first to admit it -- and a supporting role as Bob on ABC's "The Middle."

"When I was on 'The Middle,' I don't think anyone knew I was on that show," he says. "I think more people knew I was on the Jed Moseley thing (from 'How I Met Your Mother') than 'The Middle,' and I only did that once."

Speaking of the pilot, Kattan adds, "That'll be my 'Oh, here he is. That's what he's been doing.'"

When he hasn't spent his time touring the country as a stand-up act or developing a promising sitcom, Kattan has been putting the finishing touches on a tell-all book about the years he spent on "Saturday Night Live" and his sketch comedy upbringing with The Groundlings. He says the book will provide lots of psychological insights and funny anecdotes regarding not only himself, but Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Tracy Morgan and many others.

Kattan also frequents FunnyOrDie.com, where he recently struck gold with a video series in which he plays "The Dark Knight Rises" villain Bane. He portrays the masked menace years after the events of director Christopher Nolan's film as a nitpicky sweetheart who lives in a gated community. Kattan says he wanted to shoot the short clips because he thought Bane was rife for mockery and, more importantly, because he wanted people to talk about something other than the Aurora shootings.

"Batman was getting such a bash just because of that stupid idiot guy, and I thought a lot of the people making opinions needed something else to Google about and Tweet about," Kattan says.

Check out the videos. Then, check out Kattan for yourself when he performs at 7:45 and 9:45 p.m. on Aug. 23 and 24 at Stanford's Comedy Club in Kansas City. If you follow his instructions, you might even earn a reward.

"Anybody who doesn't refer to the Roxbury gets $10," Kattan jokes. "That's actually the name of the tour."

Shea Conner can be reached at shea.conner@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.

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(c)2013 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

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