Kevin James loves Long Island — the people, the places and the pizza. The Stony Brook-raised comic is so fond of the area that he moved his family to Nassau County and built his new hit sitcom, “Kevin Can Wait,” around L.I., and films it in Bethpage. Tonight, the first season concludes with Part 2 of the season finale, featuring James’ former sitcom partner Leah Remini (“The King of Queens”).
James’ stand-up career is also flourishing. In preparation for his upcoming Netflix special at the Beacon Theatre this fall, he has been working out his family-friendly material among Long Islanders at The Paramount in Huntington, where he will return Saturday for his fourth show.
James spoke with Newsday about re-teaming with Remini, returning to stand-up and the comforts of coming home.
Does a Long Island crowd feel different to you?
Without a doubt — there’s a shorthand or a style that Long Island has that I’m familiar with. I’ve always tried to keep my material pretty universal, but there’s an extra level on Long Island. It’s about taking the volume to 12. It’s more comfortable here because I click with them the most.
Because you are so established, do people expect you to be hysterical all the time?
Nah, you can’t worry about that. You have to go with what you think is funny and how you can connect with the crowd. Comedy is about swinging the bat and not squeezing it too tight. You have to have fun with it. Some things work and some things don’t. If you put pressure on yourself, it kind of hinders you.
You moved your wife and four children to Long Island. How has the adjustment been?
I’m so thrilled to be here. I love the seasons, the food, the people; I don’t even mind traffic anymore. I missed everything about this place. It’s home, and it feels so great. I love it.
You re-teamed with Leah Remini for the “Kevin Can Wait” finale. How did that occur?
We always wanted to work together again, but we had to come up with the right idea. We wanted to show the audience some stuff like the way it used to be. We came up with the idea that we played husband and wife in an undercover assignment. The case was never closed and we have to revisit it. It was a fun way to get together. It was literally like we never left.
People seem to have an ownership over you, as if you were their neighbor. Where does that familiarity come from?
I think that’s just Long Island culture. It’s the way we grew up and the way people are. Long Islanders are so unique. We do things differently here.
This fall you are shooting a stand-up special for Netflix, which is your first in 16 years. How come it took so long?
I never stopped doing stand-up, it’s just the amount of time you get to dedicate to it varies. It took a long time to amass new material and put it together. I wanted to do it again, and I’m excited about it. Right now, I’m tuning up the show and getting out there.
You tend to do a lot of self-deprecating jokes about your own weight. Do you feel people find that relatable?
This is what I am. Last night I was out eating pizza with my buddy at 9:30 p.m., just crushing it. You wake up like, “I can’t believe I did that.” I was literally hung over from pizza. Then you are trying to start the diet again, and it’s the same struggles everybody has. People connect to that.
The Joel-James duo
Long Island guys like to stick together, so it’s not surprising that Kevin James and Billy Joel are buds. The duo has collaborated onstage at both Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum, plus Joel even made an appearance on “Kevin Can Wait.”
“Billy’s a regular guy who has worked hard his whole life and just happens to be a legend,” James says. “He’s blown away by his own fame, like I am with mine.”
James grew up listening to Joel’s music and is in awe of the bond he has with Long Islanders.
“People connect so much with his songs because they bring them back to specific times in their lives,” James says. “Hopefully, in some way, not to compare myself to Billy Joel, I can get that connection with people in the form of stand-up and storytelling.”— DAVID J. CRIBLEZ
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Saturday, May 13, The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington; 7 p.m. Oct. 28-29, the Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway, Manhattan
INFO 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
ADMISSION The Paramount: $49.50-$99.50; the Beacon: $69.50-$79.50