Exclusive: Tim Meadows On 'The Bill Engvall Show' And His Favorite Moments On 'SNL'
Mike: How did you get involved with "The Bill Engvall Show"? I've followed your career for some time; I really like you on the show but, I admit, I didn't completely see this one coming.
Tim Meadows: Well, I auditioned for it, originally, and then I didn't get it. A couple months later they called and said Bill wanted to know if I could have lunch. So, I had lunch with him... I live in Venice Beach and he came up to Venice; we went to lunch and we talked and we really hit it off really well. We barely talked about the show. When we started talking about the show, you know, he explained what they were looking for. He told me the character was divorced and I was like, "Wow, I got divorced, too." Then he told me the guy was going to be really frustrated trying to start dating again and I was like, "I'm very frustrated dating again." I was like, "Yeah, I think I want to do it." I mean, it's a job, which is also a great thing, but I can also relate to the character. I definitely wanted to try to play an adult.
Mike: I really like the casting on the show. Look, I live in New York, I know I'm not the main demographic they're going for. But, I admit, I'll be flipping through channels and the show will come on and I'll see you on there and I'll watch for awhile. I think the casting can pick up people that aren't quite the target audience.
Tim Meadows: Yeah, yeah, I think that's (laughs) probably one of the reasons they hired me, too. It would have been simple to just hire a guy like Bill, or hire a guy from Bill's demographic. I think what I do adds a different dynamic. And, believe it or not, me and Bill have a really great chemistry together and he's really fun to work with. We make each other laugh and that's been a benefit of it ... He's a very funny storyteller and I think when you have that kind of performance, it never gets old. He's not some crazy character that when he's 70 it's going to be weird watching him (laughs) put on those clothes.
Image © Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Mike: I've noticed a lot of your characters will make pop-culture references. Do you write those in? I've noticed a trend. I watched the screener of the upcoming episode and your character makes a, what turned out to be wrong, reference to Arsenio Hall being in "Boomerang." I might be the only person who remembers this, but when you were on "The Michael Richards Show" you made a reference to the old video game "Pengo" that I thought was really funny.
Tim Meadows: (Laughing) I don't remember the Michael Richards
but I'm really impressed you remember these, like, jokes that I've said in all these shows. That's so funny.
Mike: (Laughs) Well, you don't hear "Pengo" mentioned too often. It was one of my favorite games as a kid and I remember watching it thinking, "Who remembers Pengo? That's great!"
Tim Meadows: That's so funny. No, that was written by one of the writers on the show. And also, the other reference from the Engvall show you just mentioned... what was it?
Mike: The Arsenio one?
Tim Meadows: Yeah, that was something that they wrote, also. I wish I could take credit for them but I can't.
Mike: From now on you should just take the credit.
Tim Meadows: Yeah. But I can make pop-culture references as jokes, if that's what you mean.
Mike: I asked Nancy Travis this same question: Do you think critics, in general, are too harsh -- and not your show in particular, but as a whole -- on family shows?
Tim Meadows: I don't think critics are too harsh on it without reason. It's the oldest type of sitcom so it's been around for a long time. It's easy to compare it to other things, you know, other great sitcoms. So, it doesn't bother me. I don't expect critics to love this show but I would expect that they would, at least, respect what the show is. It could be a lot worse; we could pander to the lowest common denominator of an audience if we wanted to. I'm aware of what critics like and don't like and, like I said, I wouldn't expect them to love this show like they would love "Arrested Development" or "30 Rock." I would expect them to at least respect what the show does considering what the genre is.
Mike: It's true there aren't a lot of family comedies on the air right now.
Tim Meadows: Exactly! There's not. You can't really compare a show like "Arrested Development" to something in the past. Do you know what I mean? It's a family sitcom but it's not like any family sitcom you've ever seen before. Whereas our show is the basic elements of "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners." So critics have a lot to compare it to. If you wanted to make a bad family sitcom, it's easy to do, you know? It's really easy to do. We could be dressing Jennifer [Lawrence] in sexier outfits or having attractive models on the show or having more edgy storylines. There's edgier things that happen in real life but that's not what the show is. They know what they want: A middle America family sitcom with traces of edginess to it. And the traces are very very minor.
Mike: I think this was about a year ago, correct me if I'm wrong, but you threw out the first pitch at a Chicago Cubs game?
Tim Meadows: Yes. That's true.
Mike: How nerve-wracking was that?
Tim Meadows: It was extremely nerve-wracking. When all that stuff happened with Baba Booey, you know, on the Stern show? I really felt for him because I knew exactly how he felt.
Mike: And it's all over YouTube.
Tim Meadows: I wish mine was all over YouTube because I threw a strike! (laughs) I was very happy with mine. It was funny because when I went to do it the guy who was going to be catching the ball, he didn't have on any pads. I go, "Hey, I'm going to throw it as hard as I can. I can really throw a baseball. Do you want to put on some pads or something?" He just goes, "No, don't worry, I'll be OK." (laughs) He was not worried about me throwing it hard.
Mike: This can be the most obscure thing or something that's halfway famous, whatever you want. Your favorite moment on all your years on SNL?
Tim Meadows: My favorite moment that I was in, I wasn't even actually on camera. But, there was a scene -- and everyone just calls it "Dr. Poop" -- It was a scene that Will Ferrell plays a doctor who was afraid to tell these parents that there's something wrong with their kid. It's really just a silly scene that was near the end of the show. Freddie Prinze Jr. was hosting and he was supposed to enter the scene as a doctor and he couldn't do it because he had to do another sketch before or after it that had a lot of costumes. Adam McKay, who wrote this scene with Ferrell, asked me to do the small part that Freddie Prinze Jr. was supposed to do. I said, "Yeah, I'll do it." He said, "Just walk in and read the cue cards; you've seen it so don't worry about it."
What I didn't know was that I don't think he told Will or Molly [Shannon] or Chris Parnell that I was going to walk into the scene. So, I walked in and did my line and then when I walked out they all started laughing. It was my favorite moment because it was our show. I felt like "Oh, we can do whatever we want, nobody's going to fire us. Yeah, I can just walk into this scene and read a card." We didn't rehearse it or anything and Ferrell started crying. It was my favorite moment on the show.
Mike: I've got a couple of reader questions if that's OK.
Tim Meadows: Sure.
Mike: The first one (From Kathleen in Houston) wanted to tell you she loved you in "Mean Girls" but was also wondering -- because she enjoys your voice work and loved you in "Olive, the Other Reindeer" -- why do you not do more voice work?
Tim Meadows: I actually did a show on Comedy Central called "Lil' Bush" and I was the voice of Lil' Barack. But, they didn't pick it up after Barack got elected. I don't know, I really don't get those kind of auditions. It's not something I go after. I think people have got to really know your voice and want to hire you for it.
Mike: (From Bryna in Chicago) Who was your favorite star to work with on SNL?
Tim Meadows: I'm a big fan of Bill Murray. And Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin and Christopher Walken (laughs).
Mike: Well... yeah. All the classics episodes.
Tim Meadows: (Laughs) Yeah.
Mike: (From Steve in St. Louis) I hope you get this, I'll read it exactly the way it was submitted into me. [From a Tim Meadows line in a 1996 Mike Myers' SNL hosting monologue] Why did you sign a 30 year contract? That's such a long time. Do you realize that now?
Tim Meadows: (Laughing) That's very funny. It's so funny how one joke can linger forever. Like, literally, that was a joke that, I think, Steve Higgins came up with...
Mike: That's now on Jimmy Fallon's show, right?
Tim Meadows: Yeah, he's on Jimmy Fallon. But (laughs), whoever came up with that question, tell them I said thank you very much.
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit reader questions for celebrites to Mike on Twitter.
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