There’s no question that Jon Lovitz is one of the most-respected names in American comedy. He was a staple on “Saturday Night Live’ from 1985 to 1992, but has also been featured in countless TV and film roles over the years. In the past decade, he has also expanded his reach to the world of stand-up comedy — to the point where he now owns a comedy club at Universal CityWalk in the Los Angeles area.
What people may not realize about Jon Lovitz, meanwhile, is that he struggles to this day with a condition behind the scenes that even some other celebrities (including Kim Kardashian) also identify with — psoriasis. In order to create some better outreach for people living with the disease or simply looking for symptoms, he has now joined forces with the National Psoriasis Foundation for a new website entitled Are You Serious? — which also features a brand-new PSA starring Lovitz with the help of famed director Jerry Zucker. The website is designed to give people an introduction to the disease, including symptoms, possible treatments, and more information. It is done in conjunction with the Natioanl Psoriasis Foundation, with the hope being that it can help men and women understand how to live with the disease a little better. The best part? It does so in a way that also incoporates the actor’s trademark humor.
I spoke with Lovtiz recently about this new endeavor along with some recent headlines — including an appearance at the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen.
Matt: For people who don’t have much of an understanding about what psoriasis is or of your journey, can you talk a bit about how you discovered it?
I was about 42 and I had these dots on my arms and chest and I didn’t know what it was. So I went to this dermatologist and he gave me this cream and it went away. Then, as time went on it got worse and worse. Then, about three years ago it blew up and got really bad — it was working its way up my forearms and my neck, my back. It started [appearing on] my legs. It was covering 80% of my body and it was just miserable — I thought I wouldn’t be able to go on dates again with any women, because I didn’t want them to see me naked. It was everywhere.
[After getting a recommendation from a friend for a specific treatment], I went to the doctor and I got it and it worked. I still have it, but my skin has cleared up.
…I’m a very private person — I don’t talk a lot about my personal life — but I’m in a position to help people, and that’s more important than my own personal embarrassment. And I find that when I tell people about it they don’t judge you.
One of the things that’s interesting about this PSA and the website is that you manage to include a little bit of humor into what is really a pretty serious subject. Do you think that is something that makes it easier for people to have these sort of conversations?
[How I view it is that] yeah, I have it, but I make fun of myself and I do think humor is very effective. With a Super Bowl commercial, the ones you remember are the ones you find funny. And humor can be the best way to try and sell a product.
One of the other things I wanted to ask you about what the Sheen Roast, since it was just last week. What’s the whole process like of getting set up [for this]?
I’ve known [Charlie] for almost 20 years. I worked with him on a movie called ‘Good Advice,’ and I did ‘Two and a Half Men’ once. So I’ve known him over the years, and he’s easy to work with.
So I got a call from his manager and was asked if I’d be interested, and I’d said ‘yeah, I’d love to.’ I wrote some jokes, and then I went in and met with the writers. I said ‘here’s what I have,’ and then they had some jokes and we combined them and I did the show. Some of the jokes that didn’t work during the roast they cut — they cut it down for time.
I was happy to be involved. Charlie’s an addict and it’s a real problem, but he’s also a great guy and he has a good sense of humor about himself. The times I’ve worked with he’s been very professional. But he’s got a drug and alcohol problem, it’s no secret.
When you are doing a roast like this, how do you draw a line between being funny and going too far?
It can be a joke that is funny, but if it is a joke that is mean-spirited that’s just wrong. I don’t like doing those sort of jokes … it’s not like he’s a horrible person. He has a drug problem … when [the meltdown happened earlier this year] there was concern. It was like ‘what happened?’ There was one video I saw where I watched two minutes and then I couldn’t watch it because it wasn’t him … it was just wrong. That’s not the guy I know.
I like him and I’m glad that he’s okay now and that he’s back.
There was really only one joke during the night that really drew a harsh reaction online, and that was the one Amy Schumer made about Ryan Dann [where she told Steve-O she wished he had died instead of his longtime friend]. Did you see any of the reaction online, and did you find it funny?
It’s tough because it doesn’t seem like [Dunn’s passing] was that long ago, but it depends on your emotional state of mind. I’ve had friends that have died and then I did that, made the joke that I wished it was somebody else. But the [person I was making the joke to], I told them beforehand and they were like ‘yeah, okay.’ You don’t mean it.
Amy’s very funny and she didn’t mean any harm. You’re supposed to do edgy jokes at a roast. The writers of the show said ‘yeah, let’s do that joke.’ It’s on the teleprompter and I think if it had been Johnny Knoxville saying that about Steve-O, then it probably would have gotten big laughs. She didn’t mean anything by it. I heard she got a lot of flak for it, death threats, and I think that’s wrong. (Note: Since the roast, Steve-O has come out and told his fans to cool off the negativity and forgive Amy for the comment.)
Here’s the thing — when you do those roasts, they say they want to you to make fun of Charlie [or whoever the target is], but they really want you to make fun of everybody else. I did a little, but I tried to just do jokes that were harmless. Why rip anyone else? I don’t think anyone should be getting death threats over anything.
It’s also interesting because the Amy Winehouse joke from Seth MacFarlane was pretty well-received.
I think if [Steve-O] had [laughed] after the joke, there’d be no response. But the way he reacted to it [helped to fuel the reaction].
As someone who was such an iconic part of ‘Saturday Night Live’ over the years, do you still find the time to sit down and watch it?
Yeah, I was doing a stand-up show in Colorado and after it I watched some of it. It’s hard to describe it, but I still feel I’m a part of the show. Even though [someone else] is doing it — it’s their show. But it’s [the same in some ways]. There are good shows and bad shows — people now are like [to me] ‘oh, you were the best cast,’ but when we were there they were saying another cast was better. They’re all really talented.
Moving forward with the psoriasis campaign, the plan is to continue to try and raise awareness for the condition using some of the creative methods utilized thus far. Once again, you can check out’s Jon’s participation with Are You Serious? here.