King of Laughs: Comedian Kevin James Comes to Cannon Center 

Kevin James talks family, Netflix, and coming back to stand-up.

Kevin James will stop at the Cannon Center on his stand-up comedy tour this Sunday, September 29th, with a "new show, same beard, and the same IQ."

James is known for his numerous television and movie ventures, including a starring role in CBS' nine-season series The King of Queens, and producing, writing, and starring in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Here Comes the Boom, and Zookeeper. Between those credits and co-starring in movies like Hitch, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, and Grown Ups, James is no stranger to the world of comedy.

click to enlarge Kevin James - TOM CALTABIANO
  • Tom Caltabiano
  • Kevin James

Before he hit it big, the Long Island native got his start in the stand-up comedy circuit. He began with community theater, moving on to join his brother Gary Valentine's improv comedy group. He spent some years performing at comedy clubs, where he met Ray Romano. The two temporarily went their separate ways, Romano picking up steam with Everybody Loves Raymond, and James gaining traction making it to the semi-finals with his stand-up comedy routines on Star Search. His big break came when he got the chance to perform at the Just for Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival in 1996 with a routine about food, phone number rhythms, and relationships. It was then that he was asked to join the cast of Everybody Loves Raymond as Doug Heffernan, moving on to star as the same character in his own show, The King of Queens.

Now, years later, with a number of accomplishments under his belt, James has not forgotten his roots.

"I'm excited about doing a stand-up tour," he says. "I originally started with stand-up, but I'd gotten away from it. I've done some good things doing a lot of movies and TV and stuff. And I'm still doing that, but I've been able to dedicate more time to my stand-up career, and I've really been able to put time into developing my standards."

Last year, after a 17-year hiatus from stand-up, James dove back into the routine with a Netflix comedy special called Never Don't Give Up, in which he speaks of his intolerance of people flaunting their lactose intolerance, sitting "third base" at Benihana and other restaurant and food observations, his interactions with fans and other celebrities, his dynamics with his four children, and more.

James says that his current tour still focuses on observational comedy, but it'll be nothing like his Netflix special.

"I think [this routine] is even better," he says. "It's been working better because, on Netflix, you've got to rewrite a whole new hour. So I was concerned about how fast that was going to come to material. But this set seemed to fall in place much quicker than expected."

One thing James says he loves about live shows is being able to connect with the audience.

"The audience and I feed off each other, and you get results right away, which is really good," he says. "Right away, you know whether you're good or bad by the way a joke lands. If it does well, you get that feedback instantly. So, I guess it's that instant gratification. And you're taking a chance every night, not knowing what's going to happen. So it's about trying different stuff. And it's exciting."

James, who speaks of his children often in his stand-up routines, credits them as being his biggest accomplishment. Although they're not traveling with him on this tour, James still manages to spend as much time with them as possible.

"They like to come to different cities," he says. "I have a Florida tour coming up later on, and they're joining me on that one. So it's great to be able to travel with them."

James is looking forward to his stop in Memphis.

"I'm excited to come and hang out in Memphis," he says. "Food will certainly make its way into the equation. There's really good food in Memphis."

Ultimately, James encourages Memphians to come out to the Cannon Center Sunday night and have a good time.

"This world is so crazy right now," he says. "It's nice to get away and to escape for a couple hours to enjoy yourself and really just not take things too seriously and have fun."

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