We met actor and comedian Kevin James before he started filming an episode of his show, “Kevin Can Wait,” at Gold Coast Studios in Bethpage. After our interview we took a tour of the set.
Are any of the episodes about something that has happened in your real life?
Yes, it is. And a lot of the stuff comes from not only my life but the life of all the writers that we have on the show. Everybody will come in from, like, what did you do over the weekend? Well, I did this, or my daughter did this, or my son did that, or my wife said this to me. And that can be the whole point of a show. Like a show can be made about that, you know. So I can give you an example. My kids were playing here on the set one day and they found an owl, a little glass owl cookie jar in one of the back — in the garage. And they say, Can you put this into a show? And I said, I don’t know. Because they loved the owl so much. I asked the guys, Can we make an episode about the owl? So now we wrote a whole episode about this owl — it gets lost and we got to find it. And somebody sold it at a garage sale, and it was actually worth some money and stuff. So we go on this whole journey to find it. So yeah, it can be about anything. It also can be about little stuff, too. That was very little. Good question.
How old were you when you first started working as a comedian? And did you do any other jobs first?
Yes. OK. I think I started comedy in 1980 — I think I was 24. When was that? 1989. I’m 51. What would that be? 1989. So I was just 23, 24 when I started. And yes, I had plenty of jobs before. I did everything from — I was a landscaper. I worked in a warehouse at a place called Grainger. Yeah, we did an episode about that. Kind of where I worked in a warehouse. But I’ve done many things. I was a personal trainer. I was a fitness trainer. Yeah, I was. I wasn’t great, but I was one. And they were a lot of fun, too. But once I found this, I knew I found something I loved to do.
You’re the star and the producer of the show. Which one is the hardest?
Oh, that’s a very good question. I think, which one is the hardest, is the producer, because producing means you’re doing everything. You’re trying to put everything together, all the pieces. Acting is one piece. Writing is one piece. But then there is editing and then there is casting choices. Then what’s this one going to wear in the scene, and this and that. So, thankfully I don’t do it by myself. I have a big group of guys that I know and ladies that help me. We all help together and we kind of make these decisions, so it makes my job a lot easier. Good question.
In student council, we like to help our community and charities. Do you have any charities that are important to you?
Oh, I have a lot of charities, yes, I do. I do retinitis pigmentosa, which is an eye impediment. My sister has it, actually. So that’s one that’s kind of close to home. And a lot of other ones, too. We work with Make-A-Wish kids. And it’s always nice to be able to give back to these kids and to have them come down here and experience what it’s like to make a show. That’s really what’s important to me. So they get to see that, and it’s fun. Just like you guys are here now. It gives kids ideas of doing their own things. And they can go out and try to do things. And make their own way, which is nice.
Did you do your own stunts in the Paul Blart movies?
I did most of my stunts in the Paul Blart movies. There are some that were — where it gets too dangerous, where I’m not great with heights. Some of them are a little scary. One was like, in the beginning of it, the second one, the first one I did, I bumped into a car and I fell off. But the second one, you had to have a stunt guy do it. And he came in, and he kind of looks like me. And he went right into the side of a car as it was moving, which I felt was a very dangerous thing to do. But that was him, but it looked like me. So I get the credit.
What inspired you to become a comedian?
For me, I just loved the comedians that I watched. I remember watching comedians with my mom and my dad and my family. We would watch Robert Klein and a lot of his specials. And I remember seeing comedians in stand-up, yes, but then also acting-wise, I saw Jackie Gleason from the “Honeymooners.” And these old-time comedians — you guys probably haven’t heard of these guys. But these were the guys who really kind of taught me in a way and kind of gave me inspiration as to what I wanted to do. So there were a lot of them. Now there are comedians now in this day, young guys coming up, where I look at and go, Wow, this guy is really good. And they inspire me. So you always try to get better. You’re always trying to keep changing yourself and do a little bit different stuff.
Out of all the movies and TV shows that you were in, which one was your favorite and why?
Wow. That’s a tough question. I’ve got to say I like them all and I don’t like them all for different reasons. So there’s like parts of movies. I don’t think there is one movie. Like, I love “The King of Queens.” I love being on that show. But I love this show. So it’s like they’re different. Everything’s different, so it’s hard to say, you know, which one you like better than the other. They’re different. It’s almost like your children. When you look at your kids, I love them, they’re all different. This one has great qualities here. This one has different qualities here. But you love them all the same.
In my research, I found out that you like the Mets and the Jets. Who are your all-time favorite players?
Well, that’s a good question. My all-time favorite player from the New York Mets was Tommie Agee, and he played for them a long time ago. He was back in 1969 with the Mets. But he was the one, when I was a kid, I used to try to be like. So I would say he is. And as far as football, there was a running back, Freeman McNeil, who I liked, who ran for the Jets a long time ago. And I remember that inspired me to kind of be a football player.
What is it like working with your brother?
I like just giving him noogies and stuff like that. No, no, it’s fun because you know each other so well, and there’s a shorthand to working with someone you know. And there’s a comfort zone. So when you’re comfortable working with somebody, you can tell them things, and they’re not going to get offended or upset. It’s that you can go back and forth and you can play off of each other. Me and Gary go back and forth. Sometimes we fight. We argue. But we always know we’re out here to have fun and to make people laugh. So we have a good time doing that, and we do.