Chris Kattan got his grounding at The Groundlings long before finding his footing with the troupe, then swinging over to “Saturday Night Live” as monkey/man Mr. Peepers and exotic dancer Mango.
He’ll be swinging around Eastern Iowa with two shows at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids on Sept. 5 and the Mississippi Moon Bar in Dubuque on Sept. 6.
Chris Kattan and Friends
- Sept. 5 at 7:30 and 10 p.m. at Penguins Comedy Club
- $22.50 advance, $25 door
- (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
- Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. at Mississippi Moon Bar, Diamond Jo Casino
- $25 – 35
- (563) 690-4800 or Dubuquetickets.diamondjo.com
His father, Kip King, was an original member of The Groundlings, the legendary improv and sketch comedy training grounds in Los Angeles, where Kattan cut his comedy teeth, as well.
He’s in good company. The organization helped launch the careers of Jennifer Coolidge, Will Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer, Kathy Griffin, Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow, Melissa McCarthy, Craig T. Nelson, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph. Other Groundlings alums include Jimmy Fallon, Daryl Hannah, Mariska Hargitay and Rita Wilson.
Kattan grew up watching his father perform there.
“I was just 7 years old and I got to just hang out, kinda like how Richard Pryor grew up in a brothel, I grew up in an improv comedy group,” Kattan, 42, says by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “I didn’t see beautiful women undressing, I just saw neurotic people, carrying off their costumes instead. I would have preferred the other one.
“I got to just live around and soak that in — that kind of lifestyle. These people who had day jobs or were actors and not working all the time — on the weekends, they did shows at The Groundlings,” he says. “That was the place where they got to be brilliant. They got to channel these characters that they had inside of them — this amazing talent they would just groom and grow.
“Then sometimes, people become masters of what they’re doing as characters and improvisers. They become Phil Hartman. I got to see a lot when I was a kid. I got to see the whole transition of Paul Reubens creating Pee-wee Herman and seeing that take off.”
Kattan was part of “Saturday Night Live” from 1995 to 2003, then moved to cinema with “A Night at the Roxbury,” stage and sitcoms, lately with the recurring role of Bob on “The Middle.”
Now he’s taking his act on the road, making his first trip to Iowa, where the first things that pop into his mind are cornfields and the baseball Field of Dreams.
“I do like going to cities I’ve never known,” he says. “There’s some beautiful places in America that are just gorgeous and you’d never know anything about them unless you’re booked there.”
While he’s been dabbling in standup for a few years, Kattan doesn’t consider himself a standup comedian. He brings a different aspect of funny business to the comedy club circuit.
“I’m not a joke-teller,” he says. “I like to tell stories, and when I tell stories, I like to become the people in the stories. The audience loves it. That’s very much like what I do on ‘SNL’ — the same energy, but all new stuff.”
Never fear, fans who loved his “SNL” characters will still get their Mango fix.
“I’m not able to put myself in the format of standup,” he says. “But what I am doing is finding my way to having my own format in the world of standup. I’ll leave it to Louis C.K. and Chris Rock — the guys that are masters at it. If I can’t master it, then I’ll do what I do best, and that is to do my own show.”
True to his improv roots, he can’t imagine telling the same joke for the “800th time,” so he makes his show a different every night, building off a set list.
“I don’t want to get used to it,” he says. “I want to make it change all the time.”
He says the best part of hitting the comedy circuit is discovering how many people want to see him in person and sell out the venues.
“A lot of people out there that are really big fans of all these things I do. What I do are all specific, different things — silly movies like ‘Corky Romano’ and ‘A Night at the Roxbury’ and ‘Undercover Brother,’ but then characters on ‘SNL.’ It’s nice to know people remember me for not being a one-trick pony, but more like a 27-trick pony.”