For 40 years, Saturday Night Live has helped launch the careers of some of the biggest comedy performers. Among them is Kevin Nealon, who appeared on the show for eight seasons (1986-1995). ET caught up with the SNL alum before the 40th anniversary special, and the actor shared what he remembers most about the show that started it all.
"When I look back on that time, [what stands out is] the excitement," Nealon said. "The excitement of being on live TV and having the option to do do topical things and the rush of it all."
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"I'll never forget the first year on that show from the cold opening Live from NY and the rush to get changed and getting back out there it was nonstop for 90 minutes," he added.
His first show was met with more than just a rush-- the actor recalled just how nerve wracking his debut on the late-night sketch comedy show, nearly 30 years ago.
"I was a little concerned," he admitted. "And also nervous because I was about to go on five seconds to go and Lorne Michaels, the producer, comes up and puts his arm around me and goes are you sure this is what you want?
During his 8-year run, Nealon created memorable characters such as Mr. Subliminal and Mr. No Depth Perception. He also paved the way for future SNL performers including Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers as anchor of Weekend Update. But no characters have left a more lasting impression on fans, including Nealon himself, than muscle-bound Austrian jocks Hans and Franz.
"We loved doing Hans and Frans, Dana Carvey and I," he said. "Every day we wrote those characters we couldn't stop laughing in the writers room because they're so pathetic."
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Nealon left Saturday Night Live in 1995, making him one of the longest-running cast members in the show's history. In 2005 he made his triumphant return to TV starring alongside Mary-Louise Parker in Weeds. These days, the comedian still performs standup across the country and stars in his own web series on AOL, Laugh Lessons with Kevin Nealon, which he co-produces with Ellen DeGeneres. He's also raising awareness for heart disease, teaming up with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and opening up about his own heart condition.
"I got out of the pool one day and my heart took off like race horses and I went into AFib (Atrial Fibrillation)," he told ET. "What happens is the heart speeds up and then eventually it slows down, and then it becomes an irregular heartbeat." Nealon is hoping that his story will help motivate others to make a difference for the millions of Americans who share the condition.