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Spit Take Saturdays: Kevin Pollak

Comedy >

Welcome to Spit THow I Slept My Way to the Middleake Saturday, courtesy of Brown Paper Tickets’ Comedy Doer Julie Seabaugh and her professional comedy criticism site The Spit Take. Julie’s goal with the site is to “elevate the public perception of stand-up comedy to that of a legitimate art form, and to enable comedy criticism be taken as seriously as that of theater, film, music, food, even video games. No ass-kissing. No bias. No mercy. Just honest, unfiltered, long-form reviews written by professional, knowledgeable comedy critics.” 

Every week Julie will select an entry from the site to be included on our blog and hand-pick some related events happening that week that she feels all you comedy lovers out there will appreciate.

So, without further ado, let us introduce you to this week’s Spit Take Saturday!

Kevin Pollak has led an enviable existence. He’s enjoyed a high level of success as a stand-up comedian and an actor, and his memoir, How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen, and Interwebs (Lyons Press), features a long list of icons and mega-stars with whom Pollak has worked with and/or enjoys a close relationship. Many of them—including Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, Tom Hanks, Kevin Smith and Mark Cuban—offer supportive or sarcastic quotes sprinkled throughout the text (as does his Mom, and Pollak himself, in a few asides). There are stories about Warren Beatty, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Johnny Carson and Jack Nicholson. It would all be so very chummy and schmaltzy if not for the fact that Pollak is so god-damned charming.

Pollak knows he’s had it good. He’s living the life, for the most part, that he dreamed of as a kid, lip-syncing to Bill Cosby records in his living room and feeling his way toward show business. It’s not exactly luck, because he worked to get there and always followed his gut. But there is a palpable sense that Pollak feels blessed to have gotten the breaks that have come his way. He’s the neighborhood kid done good, on a Hollywood odyssey, gleefully pointing out his rarefied company with disbelief.

This reaches a high point with a trip on Tom Cruise’s jet to Las Vegas, where he’s out with Bruce Willis, Rob Reiner, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and a host of others. “It still feels name-droppingly lame to discuss this,” he writes in an aside, “so please know that I don’t think I’m cool in any way. It’s just that I honestly still can’t believe this happened, so this will get it into the Library of Congress and maybe that will finally make it real for me.”

It’s clear Pollak loves everything about show business, and even defends Tom Cruise’s famous Oprah incident at one point. But there’s no reason he shouldn’t love show business. He got to do his first Carson on his own terms, thanks to a particularly nervy request to booker Jim McCauley about sitting on the panel. A kid with no formal training got to act in films like Casino, Avalon and The Usual Suspects. It’s amusing to see Pollak recognize those same giddy, star-struck-kid qualities in Joel McHale when they worked with Steve Martin in The Big Year.

Pollak does give some insight into the world of stand-up, his first real love. He writes of how he discovered timing and storytelling listening to comedy albums and watching The Tonight Show, and recalls interrupting a live Rich Little show with his Columbo impression as a teenager. But the bulk of the book is spent on Pollak’s movie and TV experience, with some time spent on stand-up and developing his successful web series Chat Show. He is laughing with his readers when he writes about his missteps, most of them minor, like eating too enthusiastically during Avalon‘s Thanksgiving scene. Most every choice paid off, and Pollak seemingly has no capacity for bitterness. He makes it easy to root for him.

By Nick A. Zaino III

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Here are some other comedians representing the San Francisco comedy scene that we recommend checking out:

Wednesday, November 21 I Verdi Junior Edition and Dusty Stax Present: Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving! – San Francisco, California  The Verdi Club Junior Edition and Dusty Stax have teamed up to bring you a Thanksgiving Eve Dinner Party from heaven: a prix-fixe four course dinner and dessert schemed up by our supernatural Chef Sean, and co-hosted by Dusty Stax himself. Featuring a performance by local bluesman Freddie Hughes and comedy from Sean Keane and San Francisco native Emily Heller.

Friday, December 7 I The Kamau Mau Uprising at Largo 12/7: Fanclub PresaleLos Angeles, California  W. Kamau Bell announces his national stand-up comedy tour, The Kamau Mau Uprising, visiting select venues nationwide in December.  The Kamau Mau Uprising tour immediately follows the completion of the second cycle of Kamau’s critically acclaimed FX late night comedy series, “Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell.”

Friday, December 7 I Will Durst Live in Chico – Chico, California  Benefit show for KZFR Chico at the Chico Women’s Club. Political satirist and comedian Will Durst will do a 90 minute show. Beer and wine for sale, all proceeds benefit community radio KZFR Chico.