Washington Post

A Few Good Laughs, Courtesy of Kevin Pollak
Leonard Hughes, Washington Post

Kevin Pollak's stand-up act is riotously funny, unless you happen to be William Shatner, Jack Nicholson or Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Appearing in more than 30 movies in the past decade hasn't made Pollak's name as recognizable as his face, but it's given him plenty of comic material. In fact, his relative anonymity has become a running joke, as in his description of working with Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Demi Moore in "A Few Good Men": "I'm like 'Where's Waldo' in that cast."

His show, which runs through tomorrow at the Improv, includes startlingly realistic impressions of the big-name stars, whom he met while appearing in films such as "The Wedding Planner," "The Usual Suspects," "Casino" and "Avalon."

Among true stories are a trip to a dance club with an apparently un-hip, stiff-dancing Schwarzenegger; a series of crank phone calls Pollak, pretending to be Alan Arkin, placed to other celebrities; and Walter Matthau's sexually explicit greeting to Sophia Lauren on the first day of filming the sequel to "Grumpy Old Men."

Perhaps instinctively realizing that folks are getting sick of hearing jokes and news about Schwarzenegger, Pollak made few allusions to the recall election: "It's great to be back in the nation's capital," he said at the top of the show, adding smugly, "This is how the rest of us speak in California."

Pollak's impression of Shatner, which many in Thursday night's opening crowd had apparently anticipated, drew some of the biggest laughs. He took the audience through a hilarious fantasized account of the actor's audition for the role of Capt. Kirk in "Star Trek," then recounted an actual luncheon that found a nervous Pollak sitting down with Shatner after Pollak had been "making fun of him for 20 years."

Along with impressions, Pollak's sarcastic observations about non-Hollywood life also kept the capacity crowd fired up. "I don't enjoy the flying," he said disgustedly, "It's such an incredible pain in the [expletive] to get on the plane now -- I don't give a [expletive] that my seat floats. . . . What else do they have -- is the drink cart a shark cage?"

Appearing on the bill with Pollak are two clever, seasoned comics, Dak Rakow and John Betz Jr.



The Baltimore Sun

Kevin Pollak: The First Performer
at Baltimore's Improv Comedy Club

It seemed as if he were telling funny stories to a friends and not a room full of strangers. Pollak, who got his big break as an actor in Barry Levinson's set-in-Baltimore movie Avalon, also does great impersonations. His bits on Christopher Walken explaining the "birds and the bees" to an 8-year-old, William Shatner auditioning for Star Trek and Arnold Schwarzenegger getting down on the dance floor at a hip night club were hilarious.

Pollak says that he doesn't practice impersonations; they either come or they don't. In other words, he can't impersonate just anyone. "I don't really study people," he says. "I just have a great gift. I'll see a movie or I'll work with someone and they just have an effect on me. I didn't realize it, but ever since I was young, before I started doing impressions, whenever I went to the movies I would walk out sort of doing the poeple in the movie that I most connected with. My wife calls me Zelig, you know, [the character] from the Woody Allen movie who literally takes people's characteristics and personalities without even being aware of it. It just happens to me."

Pollak acts as if fame just happened, too. But since an early age, he's thrived on performing. When he was 10, his mother walked in on him lip-synching to Bill Cosbys first comedy album, playing each part in the Noah and the Ark routine. "I listened to this album about a hundred or 200 times," he says. "I didn't know what lip-synching was. I just knew this was a fun thing to do. I was listening to this album and I wanted to interact with it."

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