Interview with Kevin Nealon and Fred Willard of "Funniest Commercials of the Year 2009" on TBS - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Kevin Nealon in logo of Funniest Commercials of the Year

Interview with Kevin Nealon and Fred Willard of "Funniest Commercials of the Year 2009" on TBS 12/3/09

It was great to talk to these two great TV icons!  I used to watch Kevin Nealon every Saturday on "Saturday Night Live".  Fred Willard was on many great shows and movies on the 70's and 80's and so forth. I got to meet him once, actually, with some other celebrities when they came to my town for a celebrity softball game. These are both very funny guys. I was laughing all the way through this interview. It was a special treat on my birthday!

This commercials show on TBS is always very funny and entertaining every year.


Moderator: Chrissie Eckhardt
December 3, 2009
11:00 am CT

Operator: Good day and welcome to the Turner Entertainment Kevin Nealon and Fred Willard conference call. Today's call is being recorded. At this time I would like to turn the conference over to Chrissie Eckhardt. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Chrissie Eckhardt: Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining our call today. As a reminder Funniest Commercials of the Year 2009 special premiers on TBS on Tuesday, December 15 at 10:00 pm Eastern Time. And now I'll turn it over to Kevin, Fred and moderator.

Fred Willard: That's us Kevin.

Kevin Nealon: Oh hi.


Kevin Nealon: ...or am I?

Fred Willard: No I think we're just being moderated.

Chrissie Eckhardt: (Jill), are you there?

Operator: Yes, please press star 1 on your touchtone phone to ask a question. Make sure your mute button is disengaged to allow your signal to reach our equipment. As a reminder that's star 1 on your touchtone phone. And our first question is from Susan Lanoue with the TV MegaSite.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi thanks for taking our call today.

Kevin Nealon: You're welcome Susan, how are you?

Suzanne Lanoue: Okay good. Actually it's Suzanne but that's okay.

Kevin Nealon: Hello Suzanne, how are you?

Suzanne Lanoue: What can you - great thank you. Great admirer of both your work. Looking forward to this special, what can you tell us about it?

Kevin Nealon: Well this is - I can't - I don't even know what number of Funniest Commercials of the Year this is for me. But I think it's about the sixth one. And they always surprise me the way they find these funny commercials that I've never seen before. I guess a lot of it's because they're from all different parts of the world.

And I think there's some that you'll find very shocking and some that are really creative and some that you may have seen before.

Suzanne Lanoue: Okay great.


Suzanne Lanoue: Go ahead, sorry?

Kevin Nealon: Fred?

Fred Willard: To me the fun part - I've watched them every year and I really enjoy them. And the fun part for me was being on it and coming here and working with Kevin. I didn't get to see the commercials so I'm looking forward to watching the show myself.

Suzanne Lanoue: All right it's a great show.


Kevin Nealon: Yeah, it's kind of different this year. We're working with Fred Willard and Roy Jenkins so it's got a different feel to it this year. I think you'll like it. A lot of it's inside so we're not freezing our butts off outside.

Suzanne Lanoue: Awesome. I know we always enjoy watching it every year, my husband and I. I was like oh funny stuff, you know, but I'm unusual anyway.

Fred Willard: Yeah, yeah. I love funny commercials. That's why I watch the Super Bowl.

Suzanne Lanoue: That's the only kind worth watching really.

Fred Willard: Yeah.

Kevin Nealon: Well commercials are as, you know, as big today as films and TV shows, they really put so much into them. You know, you watch a commercial and it's like a piece of art.

Fred Willard: Yeah they're really - they're like little stories, they're little films.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah.

Suzanne Lanoue: That's right. And if you watch a bad movie it's like well you know, the commercials were more interesting than the movie so.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah, yeah.

Suzanne Lanoue: All right well thank you.

Kevin Nealon: You're welcome.

Operator: And our next question today comes from Jessica Rae with the Small Screen Scoop.

Jessica Rae: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to talk today.

Fred Willard: It's a pleasure.

Jessica Rae: This question is for both of you. Funny ideas are turning into real products that we see in commercial everyday. What's a crazy product idea that you would like to see be turned into a reality?

Kevin Nealon: A crazy product?


Jessica Rae: Yeah something that maybe you would like to be invented so you can use it everyday.

Kevin Nealon: I always look at things, you know, that I think will be antiquated in a couple of, you know, like in 10 or 20 years. And for me because I do standup comedy I look at the microphone and I think boy there's got to be a better - a better way to do it than this. You know, there should be some new product that can amplify your voice because, you know, I know we're going to look back at pictures and see comics holding microphones and think wow that's - that is old, it's kind of holding a megaphone, you know.

Fred Willard: It is true, you see it - it hasn't - the technology hasn't increased that much from the 20s. There's still the microphone. They're a little more streamlined. Yeah.

Kevin Nealon: Fred, I'll tell you what I'd like to see right now is a phone longer battery life.

Jessica Rae: Oh yeah definitely.

Fred Willard: And a device - a device in your car that tells you when your tire is going flat or...

Kevin Nealon: Yeah.

Fred Willard: ...when your battery is about to go down. Because that's surprising when you try to start the car and the battery is dead or you come out and find out that the tire is slowly being deflated.

I understand they have a device now that tells you where the closest restroom is. I don't know how they do that, who does that research? Yeah, it's - yeah.


Fred Willard: That's an actual product.

Kevin Nealon: Fred what I have is I have a Port-o-John I think it's called. I keep it in my glove compartment. I found it at a pharmacy so if you're stuck in traffic or something...

Fred Willard: Yeah.

Kevin Nealon: could take that out and so your closest restroom would be in your glove compartment.

Fred Willard: Do you have to pay to use it or is just now that you own it that you use it as your own...

Kevin Nealon: You buy it at the pharmacy. It's a one-time pay thing. But you can only use it once.

Fred Willard: That's a handy ((inaudible)). You see they got have one that you can use for like a good year. Or another thing I'd like to know when you're stuck in traffic have some device that not only shows you where the traffic but answers the question where the hell are all these people coming from.

Kevin Nealon: I think finally the last product I'd like to see is something that you can blow into that'll tell you if you have bad breath or not because I've got a friend that has bad breath and I don't know how to tell him.

Jessica Rae: Oh. Well these would be good holiday presents if they ever got made. Thank you so much.

Kevin Nealon: You're welcome.

Fred Willard: That's a good - now there's a good idea. And Kevin, a subtle hint could be were you talking to me or is my port-a-potty door open?

Operator: And our next question today comes from (Courtney Hinkey) with (Ray) Tribune.

Courtney Hinkey: Hi guys, how are you doing today?

Kevin Nealon: Good, how are you?

Fred Willard: Fine.

Courtney Hinkey: I'm good. So clearly you two are considered experts and pros and I completely agree at comedy which is completely why you're doing this special. I'm wondering how you guys find your comedic style especially considering that you've worked with - on your own, you've worked with ensemble casts in like SNL and the Christopher Guest movies.

How do you find your own comedic style?

Kevin Nealon: Well I don't know about Fred but for me it's, you know, over the years you develop your own style. You start trusting your instincts and, you know, everything from your background comes into play. You know, when I first started doing standup comedy you emulate people, you know, like a lot of comics emulate other comics that are successful until they find their confidence and what they're really trying to say themselves. Fred?

Fred Willard: Yeah well I find that I kind of - I haven't done too much standup like Kevin does but I find I kind of like all kinds of comedy. My favorite is the more subtle kind of comedy but I also enjoy if something gets very slap-stick and silly I feel like I can just join in very easily.

I'm not like - I don't want to use an old reference, Fred Allen or someone suddenly doing wild comedy. I kind of am open to all kinds.

Courtney Hinkey: And just a quick follow up do you guys have a favorite commercial this year?

Kevin Nealon: There's so many good ones in this package. I don't think Fred has seen all the commercials in this thing but maybe...

Fred Willard: No I haven't.

Kevin Nealon: But I like - there's a couple. I like - there's a guy hiding in the closet or he's actually - the husband finds him hiding in the closet naked. And the wife is in bed. And it starts off with him spinning this long story about how he was running through the woods and you don't see him in the closet yet.

He's running through the woods and he's, you know, he climbs a tree and they cut the tree down to get him and then the tree is sent to a mill and, you know, he just misses the chainsaw and then he's thrown down the water and it goes over the waterfall and then that's how he got into the closet and the guy believes him. And I thought that was pretty clever.


Kevin Nealon: And you know, I can't remember what product that was.

Fred Willard: Yeah, well that ((inaudible)) funny commercials. I thought it was - there's a joke like that where the husband comes home and the wife is lying in bed undressed and the says what are you doing? She says I think I'm having a heart attack. And he hears a noise in the closet, the opens the closet door and there's a man in the closet. And he says you idiot, my wife's having a heart attack and here you are hiding in the closet.

But you know what's one of my most fascinating commercials - I donít know if you've seen it - Steve Wynn in Las Vegas is perched on top of his hotel the Encore.

Courtney Hinkey: Yeah.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah.

Fred Willard: And he's promoting the new hotel. And I - we have a TiVo and I keep telling my wife I said run that back I've got to see how they do that if he's actually sitting on top of that hotel with no net or anything or unless there's CGI puts him up. It's fascinating. And he's got lines, he's got to deliver very crisp lines and timing. Now that's tough.

Courtney Hinkey: Yeah. Well thank you both.

Kevin Nealon: You're welcome.

Fred Willard: Yeah, you're welcome.

Operator: And our next question comes from (Jane Amethon) with (Tan Mark).

Jane Amethon: Hi, this is for Fred. Fred, one of my outlets is Chicago market so we wanted to find out how Second City shaped your comedy since you're one of the alums?

Fred Willard: Well that's true but it's interesting you ask because there's a 50th year anniversary coming up in about two weeks that Iím going to. But it was the first time that I ever did improvisation. And it was a wonderful experience. I was just there one year. And after a while it becomes second nature. And I felt that I could do it.

And before I went there - when they wanted me to go there I said I can't do that, I can't improvise because I've seen all these wonderful improvisers, Alan Arkin and all these people. And - but once you do it and you're on stage and you see the ideas come it makes you relax a little and have a little more confidence in yourself.

And it just was a good start to my career. I spent one year there and then since then I've kept in contact with a lot of people who went through Second City and it's like a fraternity now.

Jane Amethon: That's great. And, you know, listening to you and Kevin you both are really good at improv right now. Is it somehow - sometimes hard to turn off improvising all the time and follow a script?

Fred Willard: Well we did both in the show but what I've found is, you know, in a show like this there's kind of time limits, am I right Kevin? And you've got to get so many seconds for each spot.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah, that's true.


Kevin Nealon: You have to kind of - you've got to have an in and an out for it. And you have to get to the - it's mostly scripted but we do improvise off camera until we come up with the lines and then we use those lines.

Fred Willard: That's true, yeah. And sometimes it's not that we're so great but a lot of times it's just people talking we'll come up inadvertently with something maybe a little more on the spot or funnier than a writer which has a tough job just sitting by themselves writing an hour-long, you know, what this guy says this, this guy says that.

And I think ((inaudible)) they welcome, you know, particularly comedy actors coming up with some lines. What if I say this? What if I say that?

Jane Amethon: Well I love the commercials so I'm looking forward to watching you guys too. So thank you.

Fred Willard: Well I've watched - I loved the shows in the past so I'm looking forward to watching it.

Jane Amethon: Thanks.

Operator: And we'll go next to Suzanne Lanoue with the TV MegaSite.

Suzanne Lanoue: Hi again.

Kevin Nealon: Hello.

Suzanne Lanoue: Are you guys - did you guys write the show or are you going to be doing any writing on the commercial show or improv-ing or is just somebody else wrote it and you're just reading it?

Fred Willard: Well I don't know, Kevin, did you do some...

Kevin Nealon: Well we've already shot the show.

Suzanne Lanoue: What?

Fred Willard: We've done it. We did it and I think we improvised a little but it was fully scripted. And I don't know I'm sure Kevin had a lot of input into it. I didn't have much but I - we added a little while we were doing it.

Suzanne Lanoue: Oh good.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah, I work with the writers, the writer beforehand and we kind of hone it down. And, you know, we're making changes all the way up until the time we shoot it.

Suzanne Lanoue: Oh.

Kevin Nealon: And so when we get to the set Fred and I kind of improvise a little bit and then we kind of include that in the script.

Suzanne Lanoue: Okay so it's pretty funny then?

Fred Willard: Yeah.


Suzanne Lanoue: I mean besides the commercials?

Fred Willard: The script was quite funny right from the start so I didn't - I never felt like I had to say oh geez can we change this it was - I thought it was great.

Suzanne Lanoue: Oh great because yeah, some of the ones in the past like years ago you just sit there and go this is lame, go onto the commercials. So that's good when you're funny in between.

Fred Willard: It's like the Super Bowl, the game isn't going that well let's see the commercials.

Suzanne Lanoue: Okay. Well you guys are great. I mean, you should have your...


Suzanne Lanoue: guys should have like an ongoing show. I'm just enjoying sitting here listening to you guys rap.

Fred Willard: I'm sorry what did you just say? What did you just say? Would you repeat that for - is this being recorded?

Suzanne Lanoue: I said you should have your own show the two of you because I'm enjoying sitting here and listening to you guys talk...

Fred Willard: Thank you very much.

Suzanne Lanoue: ...and be funny so.

Fred Willard: I just wanted to get my recorder going for that.

Suzanne Lanoue: I know, right. Okay tell them to call me I'll tell them.

Fred Willard: Okay thank you.

Suzanne Lanoue: Thank you both.

Operator: And as a reminder it's...


Operator: 1 to ask a question today. And we'll go next to Jessica Rae with the Small Screen Scoop.

Jessica Rae: Now Fred Kevin can be a little sneaky did the put you through any kind of initiation process to join him as the co-host for this special?

Fred Willard: They nailed my shoes down to the floor, they stole my trousers and...

Jessica Rae: Oh no.

Fred Willard: I had to go home and...

Kevin Nealon: We nailed his shoes down to the floor but...

Fred Willard: What?

Kevin Nealon: We nailed your shoes to the floor but your feet were in them at the time so that created a problem.

Fred Willard: And I couldn't complain because it was the first time I'd done the show. No of course they - no, they - I was welcome. I don't think in a show like this they have time to say let's pull a prank on Fred. It's kind of the time thing. And it was a very fun day just going from scene to scene in between the commercials and, yeah, it was great fun.

And there were a few adlibs and - no they treated me quite well.

Jessica Rae: Well that's good to hear.

Kevin Nealon: Fred was game - Fred was game for anything in this. He was a real trooper.

Fred Willard: Yeah.

Jessica Rae: Well and we love your chemistry together and so now you're going to have a little chance to maybe pull a prank on each other because my question here is if you could start a rumor with a little bit of truth about each other what would you say? What would you put out there?

Fred Willard: A rumor with a little bit of truth?

Jessica Rae: Yeah, but exaggerate something.

Fred Willard: Well I think - I think Kevin wanted to play all the parts on this. He wants to be known as the master of disguise. And at the end of the show he wanted to be unveiled as, you know, pull off the moustache, the beard, the spectacles and be treated as more of a serious actor, kind of an Orson Welles approach to the show.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah. That's right, they want to keep making it funny.

Fred Willard: Yeah. He wanted to make it a dramatic piece but they - I think the powers to be said no, Kevin, let's keep it light but he wanted to make, you know, like Invaders from Outer Space or Martians, you know, Orson Welles - what Orson Welles did.

Jessica Rae: Yeah. And Kevin?

Kevin Nealon: The rumor for Fred is basically that the same woman that are coming out of the woodwork for Tiger will be coming out of the woodwork for Fred too.

Jessica Rae: Oh no.

Kevin Nealon: Same ones.

Fred Willard: But in my case literally coming out of the woodwork which is a little scary.

Jessica Rae: Uh-oh.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah, they're basically termites.

Fred Willard: Yeah.

Jessica Rae: All right well thank you guys so much.

Fred Willard: It's a pleasure, bye-bye.

Operator: And we'll take a follow up question from (Jane Amethon) with (Tan Mark).

Jane Amethon: Hi again. Now do you have any input at all into the commercials that get chosen or have you lobbied for any?

Kevin Nealon: We don't...

Fred Willard: Kevin should answer that. I didn't...


Kevin Nealon: You know, they have somebody at TBS that collects all the commercials and they narrow it down and they have people vote on it. And there's just so many commercials out there. And there's a lot of good commercials that we can't get clearance on too. So, you know, we have to kind of take what we can get in the end.

Jane Amethon: When you say can't get - oh I'm sorry what?

Fred Willard: That's interesting you couldn't get clearance, you'd think they'd love to be on the show.

Kevin Nealon: Yeah, you would think so but for one reason or another they don't give us the go ahead on it.

Jane Amethon: Hmm is right, I would think they'd love to be on it too. Thank you.

Fred Willard: Yeah.

Operator: And we'll take our next question from (Courtney Hinkey) with (Ray) Tribune.

Courtney Hinkey: Hi again.

Kevin Nealon: Hello.

Courtney Hinkey: One of the previous callers actually made me very curious now that I know that you guys have experience in pranks. I want to know what the best prank you've ever pulled is.

Kevin Nealon: Well I don't know that we do have experience in pranks. I was a little surprised at that question because I don't think we're kind of known as pranksters. I think - I'll ask Fred, are you a prankster?

Fred Willard: No I'm not. I don't approve of pranks because there's enough pranks in life. But Kevin, you know, Kevin and I were on a movie called Roxanne with Steve Martin quite a few years ago and I remember they planned a prank the last day of filming. I don't know if you remember it Kevin.

They sent someone over to the producer to say the actors are having a fight on the set and didn't want to do something. And the producer had to come over and he was all upset because we were running behind time and it turned out just to be a prank. And you never know what's going to happen, what the producer might say.

He could have walked in the room and say you bunch of hacks you're lucky to be working, get back to work. But luckily everyone played it very well and everyone had a good laugh. But it also extended the day another half hour. So I like to - maybe if I work with George Clooney I'll get into pranks.

Courtney Hinkey: Great, well thanks.

Operator: As a reminder it's star 1 to ask a question today, that's star 1 on your touchtone phone. And we have no more questions at this time.

Fred Willard: All right.

Chrissie Eckhardt: Well I - this is Chrissie again - I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for attending the call. And thank you very much for - to Kevin and Fred for attending. We appreciate it very, very much. And also there will be a transcript available tomorrow that we will send out to everybody on the call. And as a reminder Funniest Commercials of the Year 2009 will premiere on TBS Tuesday, December 15 at 10:00 pm Easter. Thank you so much everyone.

Fred Willard: Thank you.

Kevin Nealon: Fred, you want to get a copy of that transcript Fred?

Fred Willard: I'm not sure but I'll listen to it and say oh my God did I say that? So Kevin when do you go...

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