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Perhaps UC Irvine’s funniest graduate, actor and comedian Jon Lovitz, spoke on KUCI’s The Free-For-All Eclectic Variety with Lilheater on March 2 about his college days, his career change from acting to stand-up comedy and experiences on ‘Saturday Night Live.’
Lovitz was a student at UCI from 1975 to 1979, graduating with a degree in drama. He has appeared in over 30 films, but gained fame after his apperance on ‘SNL’ in the late 1980s. Lovitz explained how he first became interested in acting.
‘I saw the movie ‘Take the Movie and Run’ [1969] when I was 13, a Woody Allen movie, and then I saw the movie ‘Lenny’ [1974] with Dustin Hoffman, when I was 16, and then I bought their record albums and I used to do their comedy routines in Prado, when I lived in Mesa Court,’ Lovitz said.
He also explained how he was able to develop his acting skills because of UCI’s drama department.
‘We would do 15 plays a quarter, 45 plays a year, so you could be in as many plays as you wanted,’ Lovitz said. ‘I ended up in being in like 21, so it was great.’
The campus has expanded tremendously since he attended UCI, and Lovitz remarked on how much the community has grown.
‘When I was [here], there were only 10,000 students and across the street there was a supermarket and one restaurant, and that was it,’ Lovitz said. ‘I’ve been back recently and I noticed you’ve got all those shopping areas and a movie theatre. That must be heaven.’
After graduating from UCI, Lovitz acted in small roles, but hit it big in 1985.
‘Everything happened in 1985. I was in a show, it got great reviews [and] we were put on the ‘Tonight Show,’ I got an agent and then I started getting auditions and then I got cast in a movie. By September I got into SNL,’ Lovitz said. ‘It was a pretty amazing ride. It was even in Time Magazine. It was a comedy boom and they said the biggest rag-to-riches story was me.’
Lovitz explained the level of pressure that accompanied success on the show.
‘Everybody who is on the show has friends and family saying, ‘Oh, you’re the star of the show, you should be on more.’ You have a lot of people pulling you down because they get nervous that you’ll get famous and you’ll drop them,’ Lovitz said. ‘That’s the part you don’t know about. Mentally, it’s very draining.’
Lovitz now does stand-up comedy, performing on Wednesday nights at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Although he was not originally a stand-up comedian, Lovitz said the transition wasn’t particularly difficult for him.
‘Anyone who does acting will always tell you that comedy is harder than drama. Well, it is if you don’t have a sense of humor,’ Lovitz said. ‘But to me, it’s all acting. I’m not saying that I’m the best ever, but I know I can get a laugh.’
Despite all this success, Lovitz said that his father didn’t wholeheartedly support his interests while he was studying at UCI.
‘My father always wanted me to be an opera singer,’ Lovitz said. ‘He wasn’t against me acting … but I wanted to stay and study more at UCI and he said, ‘Well, as far as I’m concerned, you wasted your whole time there.”
Lovitz ended the show by telling students to pursue their own interests regardless of what their parents think.
‘You can’t go to college to please your parents. The whole point of going to college is finding what interests you. You should pick something that you’re passionate about,’ Lovitz said. ‘Just remember that if I can make it, you can.’

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