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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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"I really didn't know Jon was going to make it," Bennett later said. "He was a challenging student. At first, he mumbled and didn't fully commit to his characters. But he was very funny and quick-witted." While Lovitz cherished his time with the Groundlings, he was hardly making any money, and he had to work part-time as a messenger to makes ends meet.
Lovitz' fortunes began to turn in 1984, when he appeared with the Groundlings on the Tonight Show. "I was so nervous it was scary,
" he recalls. "But when I got into the greenroom, Morley Safer of 60 Minutes was there following around Jack Lemmon for a profile. Safer asked Lemmon what the secret to his comedy was, to which Lemmon replied, 'Keep it simple.' I heard that. Went out, did my skit, and kept it simple. It worked."
A year later, Lovtiz got his big break when he was invited to join the cast of Saturday Night Live. Immediately after learning that he'd been cast, Lovitz drove straight to Randy Bennett's class and shouted, "I got it!" Upon hearing the news, Bennett burst out in tears. Lovitz remained part of the SNL cast for five years, from 1985-1990, and during that time he created some of the most memorable and inventive characters in the show's history: Tommy Flanagan the Pathological Liar, Shakespeare ham Master Thespian, Hanukkah Harry, and impersonations of Michael Dukakis and Harvey Fierstein.
After leaving the cast of Saturday Night Live
in 1990, Lovitz enjoyed continued success as an actor on film, stage
and television. He turned in a memorable performance as a baseball scout
in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, then went on to feature in such acclaimed comedies as The Wedding Singer (1998), Small Time Crooks (2000), Little Nicky (2000), Rat Race (2001), and The Producers (2001). With his performance in Small Time Crooks, Lovitz fulfilled a childhood dream of working with his idol Woody Allen.
A year later, he fulfilled another childhood dream when Neil Simon invited him to join the Broadway cast of his play The Dinner Party. Lovitz says, "Woody cast me in Small Time Crooks and actually told me to add what I wanted in my dialogue. Woody Allen was letting me improvise! And Neil Simon personally asked me to do The Dinner Party. I'm not kidding—it doesn't get better than this." In addition to film and stage acting, Lovitz has enjoyed a long and successful television career. His most prominent television credits include Newsradio, The Critic, Friends, Just Shoot Me, and The Simpsons.
Despite his remarkable success as a television, film and stage actor, Lovtiz was unable to work up the nerve to perform standup comedy until quite recently. "I was always going to do standup," he says, "the same way that some guys say they were always going to climb Mt. Everest." Finally, in the early 2000s, Lovitz took his chance by performing brief, five-minute sets at the Laugh Factory, the famous Hollywood comedy club.
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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 and Kristen Wiig.
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