High Times Greats: Kevin Nealon

A 2006 interview with the comic genius.
High Times Greats: Kevin Nealon
Kevin Nealon by Todd McCormick

Back when Weeds was on the air, Todd McCormick interviewed Kevin Nealon about being a part of the groundbreaking show. On the occasion of Nealon’s birthday on November 18, we’re republishing the December, 2006 interview below.

Born and raised in Bridgeport, CT, Kevin Nealon survived more seasons of Saturday Night Live than almost any other cast member. Most recently, he’s the co-star of Showtime’s Weeds, portraying breakfast-bonghitting stoner Doug Wilson. Since we’d heard rumors that Weeds’ second season was going to be even better than the first (which won a Golden Globe), we dropped in on Kevin in Los Angeles for an update. Interview and photos by Todd McCormick

How has cannabis influenced your life?

It hasn’t—except that lots of people that have hired me in this business must have been stoned.

What has been your experience with weed?

Very minimal. I’ve probably smoked the equivalent of 20 joints just by inhaling the secondhand smoke from all the concerts I’ve attended in my life. I’d have to say that Deep Purple had the best.

Do you consider yourself a connoisseur?

No. I don’t even like to speak French.

Do you have a favorite strain?

My favorite strain is when I’m trying to go number two. It sounds something like this: “Aaaaaarrrrrrrggggghhhh!” I’d actually like to see a strain of pot for the lightweights. Ya know, like a nonalcoholic beer, only with weed. Maybe they could call it, I don’t know… Mariju-No-No? Or maybe Not-Pot, or perhaps just Grass, My Ass! Something you could smoke and still be accepted by your peers. I didn’t smoke pot in college, but I perfected a technique whereby it appeared as though I was toking on the reefer when passed along to me. I’d put the joint between my pursed lips, close my eyes and pretend to be inhaling, but in fact, I would be exhaling so that the end of the joint would light up. I’d pass along the joint and then feign holding in the smoke and exhale it 20 seconds later into the smoke-filled room. Bill Clinton should’ve used this explanation.

Did your friends smoke in high school?

Yes, some of them did, and I actually didn’t discover it until they were talking about it at our 10-year high-school reunion. I was so naive! Not only were they smoking pot, but they were also getting drunk. There was some serious partying going on! But enough about the teachers…

Where do you see marijuana laws going in the future?

It appears that it will be a very long time before pot is legalized. One legalized substance at a time. At the very most, I think it could be legalized for only medicinal purposes. For all I know, it already is. I think you can get marijuana for medicinal purposes, can’t you? I certainly know that if I or someone close to me had a serious illness where smoking pot relieved the pain, I’d encourage them to light up—legal or not. I’d start chumming up with Snoop Doggy Dogg. I’d quickly become his “frizzendle.” Even though I think pot won’t be legalized for a long time, I think the amount you can carry on you and be “tolerated” will become more and more. Yeah, maybe that’s what’s going to happen: It won’t be legalized, but eventually you can carry around more than two joints—like say 10 grams—and it’ll be “tolerated.” That’s how they’ll get around it. Even now it seems like the only place pot is illegal is at borders and on that show Cops.

How did you feel about taking on a part in a show about weed?

It wouldn’t matter to me if it were about weed, heroin or a fine pinot noir from Napa Valley. What mattered to me was that it was a well-written show that wasn’t about just marijuana, but also about character flaws and family dysfunctions in America’s suburbs.

What can fans of the show look for in the second season?

The writers have taken it to a whole other heightened level. It’s “off the hook”! Everyone is taking more risks and getting more involved in the mariijuana business. It’s not just Nancy Botwin anymore. Doug, Andy, Sanjay, Dean, Conrad—everyone is getting their hands dirty. The children are becoming more neglected and thus more troublesome. Outside forces come into play, creating some pretty intense situations. Even with all this, one of the many things I love about the show is that there’s a lot of heart.

Has the success of the show surprised you?

I typically find it a surprise for anything I’m on to be successful. In the last several years, I was on two highly touted sitcoms that fizzled out in their first season. For several reasons, the success of Weeds didn’t really surprise me. First, I was due to be on a hit. Aside from that, it had a great team of writers, the concept was fresh and the casting was great. So-called perfect people that live in identical “boxes” and drive identical cars in these sprawling suburbs across America could relate. Their beautiful manicured lawns have weeds.

Are you working on any other cannabis-related projects?

No, but if I was, I would “tolerate” it.

How long have you been a vegetarian?

Eighteen years. When someone learns I’m a vegetarian, they always ask why. For me, it’s for both health and ethical reasons. I started questioning where our food came from and why they call it a hot dog when it’s really pig by-products wrapped in hog’s belly. Why do they call it a hamburger when it’s really ground-up cow’s ass? Being a vegetarian is much more truthful—broccoli is broccoli, carrots are carrots. It’s just not safe to eat meat. I learned that once an animal dies, its flesh starts rotting right away, just as human flesh does. Parasites set in immediately. Thus, the term “fresh” never applies. Through research, I became aware of the cruelty and abuse of factory farming. I say, save the steroids for our athletes!

Do you see a connection between a vegetarian lifestyle and concern for the environment?

Yes. Whether you’re a veggie for health or ethical reasons, there is a direct connection between a vegetarian lifestyle and a concern for the environment. If it’s for health reasons, you don’t want to be breathing in pollution caused by factory farming for the same reason you don’t want to be eating hormone-injected cattle. You aren’t encouraging the cutting down of trees to make room for cattle grazing. Trees are being cut down at an alarming rate, in the US as well as around the world, for meat production. You don’t like the idea of living in an ozone-depleted environment caused partially by methane gas from cows. The 1.3 billion cattle in the world produce one-fifth of all the methane emitted into the atmosphere. By the way, if a cow asks you to pull its hoof, DON’T DO IT! An incredible amount of water and land is needed to raise livestock. To produce a single pound of meat, it takes an average of 25,000 gallons of water. According to Newsweek, “The water that goes into a 1,000-pound steer could float a destroyer.” To produce one pound of wheat, it only takes 25 gallons of water.

Have any thoughts on hemp and the environmental degradation since its prohibition?

Unfortunately, most people associate hemp with dope-smoking Deadheads and Woody Harrelson. They think that this is their sneaky way of getting weed legalized. Farmers are prohibited from growing it in the United States because it’s confused with something you can smoke… like, say, marijuana. The truth of the matter, though, is that hemp and marijuana are different breeds of Cannabis sativa, and hemp contains virtually no THC. If you smoked a lot of it, you wouldn’t get high—you’d just get a big fat headache. I know this because one night I smoked two hemp shirts and a pair of hemp pants. Maybe the headache came from the buttons? I say let’s legalize hemp… at least “medicinal hemp.” Maybe they could make hospital johnny coats out of it. Until recently, I didn’t realize the environmental value of hemp and its reforestation abilities. Apparently, the roots hold the soil together in the mountains and give an underground structure for the other plants and trees to hold on to while they grow and establish a strong root system of their own. Their strong leaf structure protects the other plants from the sun, rain and wind. In a matter of months, much of the devastation caused by soil erosion on mountains would be halted, preventing millions of deaths. Since its prohibition, we have seen a tremendous amount of soil erosion. This plant has the ability to put nitrogen back into the soil and provide more oxygen than any other single plant, oxygenating the whole area and helping the biosphere. It has an incredible capability to restore the mountain ecosystems of the world.

Do you own any hemp products?

Not that I know of… wait a minute, I think my bowling ball is hemp.

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