Kevin Pollak

Kevin Pollak

Kevin is a stand-up and an actor, but he has another skill that is pretty amazing: he’s an impressionist. No, not the painter kind, the kind that does impressions— copying other people’s voice and actions so much you’d think it was them.

Kevin’s Christopher Walken impression is so good, he got to present Christopher his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, even though he’d never met him before! William Shatner himself says that Kevin’s Captain Kirk impression is the best he’s ever seen. He left a message on Alan Arkin's voice mail, pretending to be Alan, and Alan said, "I thought I'd called myself!" His other specialties include Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, and Peter Falk.

(Today, you mostly see impressions on Saturday Night Live. The most recent major example has to be Tina Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin.)

For a comic, the ironic thing is that Kevin’s biggest hits have not been comedies, but dramas! Kevin's next movie is called American Empire, and Jeremny Piven is in it, too. Oddly, it's about a hit man trying to not to kill somebody! He was in the army drama A Few Good Men (which gave us the line: "You can't handle the truth!"), the neo-noir The Usual Suspects, and Martin Scorsese’s mob movie Casino (with Jewish comic Don Rickles). And his most action-y movie is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s End of Days.

Kevin's latest is called Napa, and it's about a soldier who comes back from a war zone to be sherrif in this wine-raising part of Claifornia.

And he's in a movie called The Big Year. Is it about... senior year? Getting married? Having a kid? Winning the lottery? Nope... birdwatching! Rashida Jones and Jack Black are in it, too. But not as birds. Hey, with all the animated-animal movies out now, you never know. Actually, it's about taking a year to do whatever you want.

Aside from his impressions, another of Kevin’s powers is being in sequels. He was in the second two Santa Clause movies (also a movie called Saving Santa! Maybe from sequels!), the second Dr. Dolittle, the second Wayne’s World. Sometimes he’s in both movies of a series, like The Whole Nine Yards and its sequel, The Whole Ten Yards, and both Grumpy and Grumpier Old Men.

Speaking of which, one of his new movies is called Geezers! It's about an actor hanging out in an old-age home to learn about being old for a role. But then he gets into a prank-war with the residents, and enlists the help of his fellwo actors, like Scott Caan, to help!

His major starring role was also in a drama; in Deterrence (with Sean Astin), he plays a US president while America is under attack, but he’s stuck in a snowstorm! But usually, he plays a friend or lawyer or something of the main character. Still, as his wife said, “as long as the leading man needs a best friend or an attorney, I'll continue to work.” He also specializes in shady characters.

Still, Kevin has been in many comedies. His first was Steve Martin’s LA Story with Sara Jessica Parker. Then the fourth Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder movie, Another You. He was in Dana Carvey’s Groundhog Day-like Clean Slate, Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do!, and recently Ben Stiller’s army comedy Tropic Thunder with Jack Black. He’s even been in romantic comedies like She’s All That, and J-Lo’s The Wedding Planner.

Kevin’s even done sci-fi and fantasy! In fact, his first non-stand-up role was doing voices in a Star Wars TV special, and his second was in the magical movie Willow, directed by Ron Howard and written by George Lucas, who of course created Star Wars itself.

But his most Jewish movie would have to be Barry Levinson’s Avalon, about life in the 1950s for generations of a Jewish Baltimore family. Also pretty Jewish is Steal this Movie, about the life of Jewish activist and hippie Abbie Hoffman.

His second-most Jewish movie is Stolen Summer, and Kevin plays a rabbi whose son (played by Mike Wienberg) is very sick. Only the son's Catholic best friend  (Adiel Stein) tries to get the son to become Catholic before he dies, so he can get into Heaven! Kevin has to explain that it's OK for people to believe different things, and not everyone has to be the same. In real life, Kevin, Mike, and Adiel are all Jewish!

On TV, Kevin was a regular on The Drew Carey Show, the short-lived law show Shark, and an episode of each of Entourage, Who’s the Boss, and thirtysomething. Kevin was also in a TV show about vampires, called Vamped Out. (After Twilight, True BloodVampire Diaries, and Being Human, it's us audiences who are all vamped out!) We even miss the animated penguins now! He also has a talk show called Kevin Pollak's Chat Show for three seasons! Samm Levine was his sidekick.

Even with all his movie roles, he still has a love of stand up, he says “As rewarding as a good film role can be, there is just nothing like getting up on a stage and taking an audience for a ride. You make a movie, and the audience may not see it for another 10 months. Here, you know-- immediately-- their reaction.”

Kevin, who was born in San Francisco, has the same birthday as his own dad! Which means for one of his own birthdays, Kevin's dad got... Kevin!

Bonus:

You might like the song "A Groovy Kind of Love," from Kevin's movie The Wedding Planner. It was written by Jewish songwriter Carole Bayer Sager. Carole is one of the most successful women songwriters ever, and one of the few women in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Her songs have really endured. Take "A Groovy Kind of Love,” her very first song, from 1965. It was recorded by everyone from pop-rock duo Sonny & Cher to crooner Petula Clark, reaching #1 with rockstar Phil Collins’ version in 1988, more than 20 years later!

Carole’s songs don’t just travel well through time, but space... a song she wrote with Bette Midler went to #1, in England, Australia, and even Japan! And her songs have ended up in TV shows from Spain to Israel.

One of her early collaborators she even married— composer Burt Bacharach, who is in the Bonus here. But she has also worked with other Jewish singer-songwriters like Neil Diamond, Marvin Hamlisch, Neil Sedaka (see the Bonus here), and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, and others from Sheena Easton to Quincy Jones (Rashida’s dad!)... and even action star Clint Eastwood, who writes a lot of the music for his own movies!

Carole has been nominated for many Oscars and Grammys. She won an Oscar for the theme song to Arthur, and a Grammy for “That’s What Friends are For.” That second song was originally for the movie Night Shift, but it became a huge hit when Dionne Warwick and Elton John sang it together to raise money to fight AIDS. She also writes for the TV kid show Quest for Camelot, getting a hit with the song “The Prayer.”

Another hit from a movie was “Nobody Does it Better,” sung by Carly Simon (see the Bonus here) as the theme to the James Bond hit The Spy Who Loved Me. She wrote that with Jewish composer Marvin Hamlsich, to whom she also was married for a time.

You know how Hugh Jackman hosted the Oscars in 2009, and people asked, “Who knew Wolverine could sing and dance?” Well, in Hugh’s home country of Australia (which is nicknamed “Oz,”) there is a songwriter named Peter Allen. They made a musical of Peter’s songs, and Hugh was the star! It’s called The Boy From Oz, and Carole helped write some of those songs, too.

Carole’s songs include these hits you can still hear on the radio: “Everything Old Is New Again,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “On My Own,” and “When I Need You.” As you might guess, Carole’s songs are popular for romances and romantic comedies like: Lost in Translation, Intolerable Cruelty (by the Coen brothers; see the Bonus here), You’ve Got MailForget Paris, 10, and the movie Ice Castles. That last one, which you'll love, starrred a figure-skating beauty and Jewish actor Robby Benson, later the voice of a famous Beast!

Carole's songs have also popped up in comedies about parents and children, like Shrek the Third (with Jewish talk show Larry King, who we wrote about here), Baby Boom, Irreconcilable Differences (with Jewish actor David Paymer), 3 Men and a Baby, and I Ought to Be in Pictures. But Carole’s songs have been used in everything from musical bio-pics like All That Jazz to action flicks like Charlie’s Angels 2.

Like she says, nobody does it better!

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