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Kevin James talks stand-up

by RODNEY HO The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on June 22, 2013 10:20 AM

ATLANTA — Suave and debonair.

Those are adjectives rarely heard when describing Kevin James.

Relatable and likeable? That’s more like it.

Be it the blue-collar delivery guy Doug Heffernan on CBS’ “King of Queens” or the doofus Paul Blart in that mall cop film, James brings an irresistible every-man quality that also has worked on the live stage for 24 years.

“I’ve done stand-up periodically here and there,” James, 48, said in a recent interview. “This is the first time in a long time I’ve put focus on stand-up, to really dedicate time to write new material and develop it. I’m excited to put it out there.”

He likes to play off his schlubby persona in his jokes: “I talk about people who annoy me, but I’m the butt of the joke most of the time.”

The New York native is also a loyal man. His opening act, Richie Minervini, was the club owner who gave James his first break in 1989. “I was horrible at first, but he was a very generous man. He kept pushing me. It paid off eventually and I’m just grateful.”

James remains heavy into film, his latest a sequel to the 2010 hit “Grown Ups” co-starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. It comes out July 12.

“It’s going to be a bigger-scale movie,” he said. “It really hits on all cylinders. We’ll have cameos from people like Taylor Lautner and Shaquille O’Neal. We all go back to our hometown. We’re still the buffoons we are.”

And he regained most of the 80 pounds he lost from his 2012 film “Here Comes the Boom,” when he played an unlikely UFC mixed martial arts fighter. “That’s the type of actor I am,” he said. “If you need me to, I’ll gain 80 pounds!”

“King of Queens” ended its nine-year run in 2007. James doesn’t preclude going back to TV at some point. “Some of the greatest talent is now on TV,” he said. “It’s not like it used to be where once you do film, you don’t do TV anymore. I had the greatest time doing TV with a great family of people. I could go back and have fun doing a sitcom.”

James has focused almost exclusively on comedy in TV and film. Would he go dark like Bryan Cranston, who transitioned from wacky dad on Fox’s “Malcolm in the Middle” to crystal meth king on AMC’s “Breaking Bad”?

“It depends on the story. It’s not like I want to show the world I can play dark and be this guy just for the sake of it. It has to be something I connect with.”

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