Freedom of speech remains vital, and comedy serves as one of its top platforms now more than ever, says Jeremy Piven.
“This is America at its finest in terms of really utilizing its freedom of speech,” the actor said of the comedian’s microphone in a recent telephone interview.
“It’s stand-up comedy, it’s not a Q and A with me. It’s my take on the world and what I think is funny and some inside stories about my journey.”
Piven debuts his national stand-up comedy tour in Naples for shows next week at Off The Hook Comedy Club in North Naples.
The 52-year-old actor has starred in everything from pay channel fare, such as an agent Ari Gold in the HBO series “Entourage” (2004 to 2011), to big-screen roles opposite actors Nicolas Cage (“The Family Man” in 2000) and John Cusack (“Grosse Pointe Blank” in 1997 and “Serendipity” in 2001).
His earlier credits even included portraying “Seinfeld” character George Costanza on the show-within-a-show scene in one episode. He also played Ellen DeGeneres’ cousin in the ABC sitcom “Ellen” that aired in the mid-to-late 1990s.
The transition from movie sets to stand-up stages has been gradual, he said. Growing up in Evanston, Illinois, Piven learned about drama firsthand, as his parents owned Piven Theatre Workshop there.
Much of his early acting career included improv and sketch comedy, and many of his movie roles were in romantic comedies. Piven sometimes portrayed the “wing man” for a lead male star, offering advice and support as he did for Cusack’s and Cage’s characters.
“I have friends who are in stand-up and have always admired the form,” he said. “I have, unbeknownst to me, been studying it for a long time.”
Piven said he’s long admired stand-up legends George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and especially current headliner Dave Chappelle — all comics who have spoken “their minds in a very truthful, open and insightful and were edgy in some way.”
“The harder you work, the easier it seems,” Piven said of Chappelle. “That guy is on stage grinding for hours and hour and hours. That’s why he’s so electric and present and vital to us right now.”
Piven began performing stand-up at charities after friends asked him. He soon found himself paired up with the likes of comedian Russell Peters
“I was kind of thrown into the belly of the beast with the best, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” Piven said “It’s just been an incredible ride.”
He said he likes that many in the audience will recognize him for his acting roles, that they already will have a connection.
Even so, he’s out to prove that the real Jeremy Piven is “not a fictional character.”
“I’m not going to to waste anyone’s time and be some famous guy who runs the clock out,” he said. “I’m going to get up there and earn it.”
Piven, who has been accused of sexual misconduct in recent months by several women, did not discuss the allegations.
He said the comedy tour offers new challenges.
“I’m kind of thrilled with the whole thing,” Piven added. “But it’s also intimidating in a really great way. It’s interesting how all roads have kind of led to this.
“It’s a time for all of us to come together and laugh at ourselves and that’s what this is about.”
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3, and Thursday, April 5; 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 4; 9 p.m. April 5
Where: Off The Hook Comedy Club, 2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 1100, North Naples
Cost: From $30 (excluding fees)
Information: 239-389-6901 or offthehookcomedy.com
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