Jon Lovitz: Gimme Good Lovitz

While waiting to interview "Saturday Night Live" refugee and budding screen comedian Jon Lovitz in his manager's posh Sunset Strip office, I check out the many well-framed posters from hit films on display and wonder if, in a few years, Lovitz's movies will be similarly enshrined. Did some reporter, ages ago, wonder the same thing about Chevy Chase, before he unleashed the likes of Oh Heavenly Dog and Modern Problems? Or about Dan Aykroyd before Doctor Detroit and Nothing But Trouble?

Suddenly, I'm considering sending a petition around to prevent former "SNL" members from making bad comedies. What would Lovitz think? The comedian enters the room eager to talk about his two upcoming films, Penny Marshall's baseball flick A League of Their Own and the sci-fi comedy Mom and Dad Save the World.

In League, he plays a baseball scout who recruits Geena Davis to fill a slot on manager Tom Hanks's baseball lineup, which also includes that woman of many positions, Madonna. Since she once turned me down as a dancer in one of her videos, I'm always anxious to hear the latest dirt on Madonna, but Lovitz has only nice things to say about her and the rest of the cast. He will allow that his character's based on Eddie Spimozo, the '40s gangster he played on "SNL."

Lovitz gets top billing for the first time in Mom and Dad, playing the villainous leader of his own small planet, a place, he tells me, that comes complete with "fish people and miniature bulldog people."

"You could have filmed at my class reunion," I say, and ask Jon what attracted him to such a strange role. "Every scene I'm in, I'm like the guy driving it forward," he says proudly. "So I'm not just reacting. I'm causing the story. It's my fault." That's an awfully brave statement to make about a film that's seeing the inside of theaters almost two years after it was made. Why the delay? "There's nothing wrong with the movie," Lovitz says. "They're just trying to figure out who to market it to." I ask Lovitz if he's going to start holding out for leading roles. He shrugs, and tells me about a project he passed on. "The script was really funny," he says. "But I thought, it's the kid's movie and I don't want to play second fiddle to some kid ... It was Home Alone." I consider dropping my jaw and slapping my cheeks a la Macaulay Culkin, but I don't want to add insult to injury.

For a guy who's willing to tell stories like that about himself, Lovitz appears to be in a fine state of mind these days. "The headline for this could be 'Valley Jew Makes Good,' " he suggests jokingly towards the end of our gabfest. Jon--I'll see if the editors will go for it. Still, Lovitz's optimism about the greener pastures of moviemaking hasn't kept him from popping back up on "SNL," which he has done several times since his official departure--often playing the familiar Lovitz characters of yore. Does he ever wonder if he did the right thing by leaving the show that put him on the map? "Yes," he says. "I wonder about that. Constantly."