For nearly 30 years, Tim Meadows has been making people laugh.
From the famed improv troupe Second City, where he starred alongside Chris Farley, and his 10 years on “Saturday Night Live,” where he created the iconic character Leon Phelps, “Ladies Man,” to films such as “Mean Girls” and sitcoms like “The Goldbergs,” Meadows has done it all.
But one thing he hadn’t done too much of, at least not until eight or nine years ago, was stand-up comedy.
Fans in the Spokane area will get a chance to check out Meadows’ act when he headlines two nights at the Spokane Comedy Club. It’s a return engagement to the Lilac City for Meadows, who played the club back in August.
The appeal of stand-up for Meadows lies in its instant gratification.
“I like, in general, having an audience laugh,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday from Chicago, where he lives. “Being able to get my ideas out there, things I’m thinking about. It’s fun to have stand-up as a platform to do that stuff.
“Stand-up is something I’ve always admired,” he added. “And I just thought, what’s the quickest way to get my ideas out there, without having to spend a lot of money? And stand-up was the answer.”
In his act, which he didn’t want to delve into in detail – you’ll have to check out the show to see if the Courvoisier-sipping Ladies Man makes an appearance – he talks a lot about his own life while touching on current events and politics.
“I talk about myself, I talk about being a single dad or having kids, or being divorced. I talk about growing up in Detroit and my family,” he said. “And I do some things that I know the audience probably expects to see.”
It’s different writing for stand-up than writing a comedy sketch or scene from a sitcom or movie, he added, and he likes the challenge.
“With a sitcom, there’s a rhythm. There are jokes every few lines. Lines in sitcoms are either transitional lines or a setup for a joke. And so with stand-up, it was a different sort of nut to crack. I wanted the audience to know who I was. I know they have an expectation of who I am, and they expect me to be funny. The approach that I had writing it was a little bit different. I know I have to be funny, I know I have to explain why I’m here, and why this is going to be fun.”
When he’s not telling jokes in front of a live audience, Meadows can be found on CBS’s subscription streaming service, CBS All Access, in the new police comedy “No Activity,” alongside Patrick Brammall, Amy Sedaris and Jesse Plemmons.
He also has a recurring gig on the ABC family sitcom “The Goldbergs,” with Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey as parents raising three kids in “1980-something.” Meadows plays Mr. Glascott, the guidance counselor at at the school the three Goldberg kids attend, and who frequently has run-ins with their “smother,” Beverly (McLendon-Covey). It’s work he really enjoys.
“It’s nice going into a job like ‘The Goldbergs’ where every single person on the set is very nice and relaxed. And the actors are all funny. Everybody is so nice,” he said. “Wendi and I really break scenes with each other because we laugh at each other’s characters … I’m surprised she’s not been nominated for an Emmy because she’s very, very good.”
(A proposed spinoff, set in the 1990s and featuring Meadow’s Glascott as the head of the school, didn’t get picked up, despite good buzz. ABC will run the pilot as a special episode at 8 p.m. Jan. 24.)
But one of his proudest recent achievements was his participation in Amazon Prime’s live stream of the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, hosted by “Cord and Tish,” aka Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon. Meadows played himself as a sideline reporter, one who asks the hosts not to mention “Saturday Night Live” to him. So of course, at every opportunity, “Cord and Tish” mention “SNL” to him, to comedic effect.
“I mean, we wrote that and we pulled it off. The idea is that they weren’t Will and Molly, and I’m Tim Meadows,” he said. “It’s definitely my crowning achievement. It’s one of the things that I’m really proud of. It’s really hip, and nobody had done it before. … I’m proud to have been part of that,” Meadows said.
Not everyone was in on the joke. The show got a number of one-star reviews on Amazon, many from people who clearly didn’t know what was going on.
“I watch the parade every year and I had to turn it off. The announcers are terrible. They took away from the integrity of the parade. I wanted to watch the floats, not listen to them ramble on about nonsense. Absolutely awful!” wrote one reviewer. Another said, “I don’t know who the idiots are that were hosting the Rose Parade but they completely ruined the experience for me.”
Meadows admits he finds that surprising and funny.
“I was surprised that people didn’t recognize Will or Molly,” Meadows said. “Because Molly didn’t look that different from how she usually looks. I can understand them seeing Will and thinking it’s someone related to Will or something, because he has a bald wig on and stuff,” he said.
“It was so much fun to do. … We loved the response, the fact that people watched it and didn’t know what was going on, and they thought the hosts were picking on me because I’d told them not to mention ‘Saturday Night Live.’ The fact that people thought that was real made me laugh.”