You know you've made your mark on pop culture when a politician uses a catchphrase you helped create to gain political leverage. That was comedian Kevin Nealon's surreal experience earlier this year when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to several members of the California legislature as "girlie men." Here, we ask the Saturday Night Live alum about that controversy, as well as his new GSN show, Poker Royale: The WPPA Championship (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET). The limited series will reward its winner with a $125,000 grand prize, a chance to split $10 million with a sweepstakes winner and — are you ready? — a GSN bracelet (seriously).TV Guide Online: Isn't it odd that Schwarzenegger — someone you and Dana Carvey used to parody in your "Hans and Franz" sketches — is now California's governor?
Kevin Nealon: Well, here's a guy who was a musclehead, a gym rat, who spent all his time in the gym doing whatever those guys do, and now he's governor. What happened? What was it that attracted Maria Shriver to him, aside from the muscles? Well, maybe he has time to read the paper in between doing sets, you know? But obviously, the guy's focused and he goes after what he wants and he's pretty determined. TVGO: What did you think of him calling state legislators "girlie men"?
Nealon: Arnold likes Hans and Franz a lot and uses a lot of their little catchphrases. Even before he ran for governor, I would do things like Special Olympics with him or the bodybuilding competition that he was hosting and I would see him use all that stuff. But when he said the "girlie man" thing, it was interesting the way people reacted to it. A lot of women's groups were up in arms and the gay rights activists thought it was a slam against them. And it wasn't — it was just "instead of a manly man, it's a girlie man!" It was more of the wimpy pathetic loser, an unmotivated... wimp. TVGO: Wouldn't some trash talk and name-calling make Poker Royale more fun?
Nealon: Yeah, that's always fun. But I don't wanna see poker players running into the stands and picking fights with the audience. There could be a lot of chip-throwing and things like that. TVGO: Poker pro Evelyn Ng is your cohost. Is there an unspoken sexual tension between you two?
Nealon: Oh, yeah. There's a lot of sexual tension there. I have a lot of respect for her. She's also great with working the chips in her hand. It's kind of like sleight of hand. TVGO: So will you two hook up by the end of the show's run?
Nealon: Um, I don't think so. She's got a boyfriend. I've got a girlfriend. The odds would be pretty monumental. TVGO: You're also a regular on Comedy Central's Crank Yankers. What's been your proudest prank call?
Nealon: There's a character I like doing [called] "Over-Explainer Guy." I was selling a car and I was explaining to the person what it was. I said, "The mileage is very low. And by 'mileage,' I mean the amount of actual miles that is read on the odometer. And the speakers — and by 'speakers,' I mean the sound system. The output of the music coming from the speakers which is hooked up to the radio, usually located in the doors or in the back panel." That kind of thing. TVGO: People must get amazingly frustrated with you.
Nealon: Some people were very patient. Other people were like, "Yeah, I know what a speaker is." I got that from a friend of mine who went to Juneau, Alaska — and he says, "You know, Kev, Juneau is the capital of Alaska." TVGO: Back to SNL for a moment. In his book, Jay Mohr says you're forever associated with the show, no matter what you do.
Nealon: The show is such a recognizable institution that, once you're on there, it's tough to shake that, you know? Even [Adam] Sandler, who's had so much success with films, I think people still go back to the Cajun Man and stuff. I don't know if it's anything you can ever shake, unless you discover the cure for cancer or something. But even then, they'd probably say, "Discovery for the cure of cancer was found today by SNL alum Kevin Nealon." TVGO: Interesting. Are you looking into medical research?
Nealon: Uh, no.