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Comedian and actor John Lovitz was part of the Saturday Night Live cast for five years, during which time he created memorable characters like Hanukkah Harry.
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In 1979 John Lovitz joined the Groundlings, an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe in Los Angeles. He was hardly making any money. His fortunes began to turn in 1984, when he appeared with the Groundlings on The Tonight Show. A year later, he was invited to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. After leaving the cast, he enjoyed continued success as an actor on film, stage and television.
"I was always going to do standup, the same way that some guys say they were always going to climb Mt. Everest."
Actor, comedian. Jon Lovitz was born on July 21, 1957, in the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana, California. Lovitz first fell in love with making others laugh at the age of 5, when he attended a sleepover and found himself inspired by a friend who cracked everyone up by making funny faces. But Lovitz never considered a career in comedy until he saw Woody Allen's 1969 film Take the Money and Run. "I was 13," he says, recalling the film's impact on his life. "That's when I knew I wanted to be a comedian." Lovitz's passion for comedy increased when, as a teenager, his mother gave him The Collected Plays of Neil Simon as a gift; Lovitz "devoured them."
Some of Jon Lovitz's comic idols, such as Woody Allen, Al Jolson and the Marx Brothers, were famous entertainers, while others were just his neighborhood friends. Lovitz was childhood pals with Lisa Kudrow, who later played Phoebe on Friends, and her brother David. "She was like my sister," Lovitz says. "Her brother David was my friend, and he is super funny. And it's ironic, a lot of people, once they know we are close, think she looks like she's doing me. But if you see that, it's because we're both doing David. He was more talented than both of us. But he's a doctor now."
Lovitz attended the prestigious Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, and upon graduating in 1975 he continued on to the University of California at Irvine. There he studied drama under famous acting instructor Robert Cohen. Lovtiz recalls, "The class was called 'Great Acting' and the professor said, 'Forget mediocre acting. Let's just look at all the greatest actors. What are the elements of greatness? Try to put that in your work.' I was thrilled by that—that has always been in my mind. He said this is what you should always do, strive for greatness. Not that I think I'm great, but just the striving..." When Lovitz wasn't studying with Professor Cohen, he was holed up in his dorm room studying Woody Allen. "I memorized Woody's routines," he remembers. "Even used index cards with little arrows to show pauses, rises in voice volume, speed of delivery."
After graduating from college in 1979, Lovitz joined the Groundlings, an improvisational and sketch comedy troupe in Los Angeles. While working with the Groundlings, he met fellow comedians such as Phil Hartman and Paul Reubens and worked under acting coach Randy Bennett. "I had always goofed off in school," Lovitz says. "It was great having Randy as a teacher because he encouraged me to be the class clown." However, Bennett initially doubted Lovitz' potential as an actor.
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Learn more about the cast of Saturday Night Live, including old-timers such as John Belushi, Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy and David Spade, as well as newer stars of the series, including Tracy Morgan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon and Kristen Wiig.
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