32 min read

SNL, Police Academy, and What Truly Matters (Tim Kazurinsky)

SNL, Police Academy, shifting careers, writing, and what really matters in life.

Tim has performed on SNL for years, starred in movies like Police Academy, musicals like Wicked, and we talked about what really matters in life even when you reach fame.

Listen and Read

You have two options…

  1. Get the audio at Apple, Spotify, Google, Amazon, and subscribe using your favorite app.
  2. Alternatively, you can listen and read this conversation using the basic player below.
PRO TIP: Subscribing has the advantage to avoid missing out on new episodes.


Simone Salis (host): You're an American actor but you were telling me earlier that you actually grow up in Australia, that's where…

Tim Kazurinsky (guest): Yes.

Sim: Until you were 16?

T. Kazurinsky: Yes.

Sim: How did that go? You were there.

T. Kazurinsky: Well, it was World War II and when the war broke out my Mother was engaged to an Australian medical student and she thought it would be a good career move to get pregnant by a coal miner from Pennsylvania wearing an American army uniform. My Father was in the South Pacific in World War two and he was on R and R in 1943, went to Sydney and got my Mother pregnant, she had one baby there, after the war she went back to his hometown Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A mining town Southeast of Pittsburgh about 50 miles, that's where they shot Slap Shot, All The Right Moves, you need a depressed mining town you go film it in [2:50 inaudible] because they shut down US Steel Bethlehem steel, the coal mine, so. But she had four more babies there in five years, I was the last and when she was having me in the hospital there was another woman also having a baby to my father that was her second. And so, my mother got a grant from the Australian Government grabbed her five babies and went back to Australia, so I was two months old I just recently found out that she went on 43 in 1950 on a boat called the Georgic to from New York to Southampton and then a boat called The Ranchi because I saw the bill of lading to take her five babies back to Australia. And she said that she collapsed halfway through around the Suez Canal and spent a week in the Brig, the Hospital rather and somebody took care of her five babies.

Sim: So, you guys…

T. Kazurinsky: She said she had no idea who helped but it takes a village, so somebody took care of the babies, and we all made it to Australia. And so, I was there until I was 16, and I had to get out because by that time my father had come back a few years later he was a Bookmaker as well as a Coal Miner. And he got in trouble with the local mob and he fled Johnstown but he showed up with a little bit of money in his pocket, so my mother took him back.

Sim: I expected an answer like, yeah I was raised there and here there is a whole book.

T. Kazurinsky: I got a lot of gangsters in my genes.

Sim: A Coal Miner also Bookmaker that got in trouble with the Australian mob.

T. Kazurinsky: Oh, no when I came back to America at 16, I quit, I had an ulcer when I was 14, and luckily Australia has national health, and then the family Doctor said look both your parents are drunks. Your Dad's crazy, you got to get out of that house because they thought it was ulcers were caused by stress, and they're not, they’re aggravated by stress. They found out years later this caused by the Helicobacter…

Sim: Pylori.

T. Kazurinsky: Pylori, so that was what was bothering me but because it was thought stress I got to get out. I quit school at 15, I got a job and a weekend you can legally leave home at 16, and all my brothers and sisters did, so at 16 I took off for Johnstown, Pennsylvania and I left beautiful Sydney to notice this mining town in Pennsylvania and I landed there in 1966. March 19, 1996, and I went what have I done, oh my God I've never seen snow, and I thought I would die from the cold. It was really; really cold.

Sim: So, you the first time you see snow was when you were 16? And that's…

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: And the first time I saw snow it's when I was 21, and I don't think I can I still can't get enough.

T. Kazurinsky: No

Sim: Because it's so marvelous if you have never seen it before.

T. Kazurinsky: It’s insane, isn’t it?

Sim: Yeah, all your brothers and sisters also left before you did because you were the youngest.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah but they stayed in Australia.

Sim: Okay.

T. Kazurinsky: Under a wartime agreement, you could choose your citizenship and they all chose Australian because so I could get out of the country when I applied for a visa they said, well you were born in the United States if you just choose American citizenship you can go now. So, I became the…

Sim: Yes Tim Kazurinsky, The America.

T. Kazurinsky: The American, and then I get to Johnstown and the Vietnam War is going on and I realized, oh I could die and I'll be eligible for the draft at 18, so I ended up going to college because I didn't want to go to Vietnam. I didn't… I worked in a grocery store called Franklin's about three train stops from my house, and I just saved up and saved up for a year until I got the money. And then when I came back to the States I went… I had to Polish Aunts you know I slept in one Aunt's house and then I had dinner every night at the other Aunt’s house.

Sim: All right, and it takes a village.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, it takes a village…

Sim: A village of Aunts.

T. Kazurinsky: Aunt Anna and my Aunt Mary, yeah.

Sim: What did you study?

T. Kazurinsky: Because when I went back to school, high school my edited the high school paper in Johnstown and that entitled me to a job as a Copy Boy at the local newspaper. It was great to have a paying job, I paid my Aunt rent, then one night literally a week after I finished high school there was some kind of a wildcat strike or whatever. A lot of the reporters didn't come in and they were short of Reporters and they were you know the Editor was going crazy, who can type whatever, and I said, “ I can”, you know. So, I typed out about you know 18, 20 stories, local stuff you know woman's auxiliary, soldiers transferring army bases because the war was going on at that time. And [7:59 inaudible] 50th wedding anniversary that stuff, so at the end of the night he came back and the pen you know at midnight the presses rolling ding; ding; ding with his green visor on, little guy with a drunken Irishman with the red nose and he said, “ do you want to be Reporter”? And I thought when you grow up, and I said, “yes”, and he, said, “ well this is your desk”. And he pulled the drawers out, he threw the stuff out, and he said, and I was 17, and I went, oh my God only in America does this happen, you know. I'm a Reporter.

Sim: That's it, on the spot.

T. Kazurinsky: On the spot but I also went to the University of Pittsburgh, it was a branch campus there, so I did that for a year as well. So, I would work you know from 5 p.m. to and get home about 1:00 in the morning and then I had an 8 o'clock class up at the College. So, it was like it was was a rough year…

Sim: Yeah, of course. This went on for a while and then you became a Reporter, and then you went to school for Journalism?

T. Kazurinsky: Yes, my Sister and Brother-in-law were working their way around the world, he was also a Bookie in Australia. He was an Irish sort of scallywag, a wonderful man.

Sim: Sort of a scallywag.

T. Kazurinsky: Sort of a scallywag, so he was also an illegal Bookmaker but this somehow they were in trouble I can't remember what but they had to leave Australia for a year until things cooled down whatever. So, he was in Chicago, and so they said come to Chicago stay with us, and I was like I'm a Reporter in Pennsylvania, and he said what are they paying you. And I said $65 a week, and he said I'll give you a hundred bucks to clean tables, so I jumped up and came to Chicago to be with him, so that's how I got here. And then I switched from Journalism to Advertising and I ended up being an Ad Man for eight years with Leo Bennet while I started the department store in St. Louis and ended up at Leo Burnett here in Chicago.

Sim: Well, so okay you're a career's madman, I’m a little bit like that but at some point, you must have had an intersection with improvisation or theater…

T. Kazurinsky: To better present my commercials I was very nervous I would get flustered and I'd panic, so somebody said take a Dale Carnegie course or a class at Second City, so I took an acting class at Second City. An improv class and Dell Close was the teacher, it was incredible, I lived for this, I loved doing it. And it was more creative than anything I was doing at the Ad Agency, and it really helped my work but I just enjoyed it, twice a week I couldn't wait for those classes. They offered me a job…

Sim: At The Second City?

T. Kazurinsky: At The Second City…

Sim: Right away.

T. Kazurinsky: No, this was 1977, and it was for an 80% pay cut, how could I pass up an opportunity like that. It took a massive pay cut to go to work for at Second City, and I never regretted, it was there are pivotal things in your life were you know doing that with Del Close and working at Second City at that time it was an amazing… it puts you, you walked out of there feeling like you were walking on clouds. It went well and you created a wonderful thing out of nothing and of just a few words and a suggestion and it just… it made you feel so excited and elated and it was like a drug. George went and his wife Bernadette Burkett they used to let's say that improv was the bastard child of acting and writing. And, so I thought, oh this is what my Writer's head is good for, I can come up with these things and also back then very heavy on costume, not anymore. Backstage at Second City you and everything usually wound up on the floor.
You were just stepping over costumes, tripping over them all the time, there was like hooks on the wall but everything that you could think of. So many hats, so many cloaks and coats, and now it's considered kind of you know deglass say. No, we're not going to you know… I'm not going to put on that old hat or that old scarf, and so they really don't use it anymore but I loved hiding behind the costumes, man. You put on a pirate hat or you know if you're going to go out as a pirate you might as well have a pirate hat, what the hell. They just don't really have them anymore, for me starting out easy to hide behind something, if I put on a Judge's robe or you know a Viking hat I'm into it. I could hide behind these characters, and one my first year at Second City when I was onstage and hired I did I refused to wear my glasses because that way if I had my glasses on I could see the eyes of the people in the audience stiffening up, and that would freak me out. So, it took about a year for me to be comfortable enough to wear my glasses on stage.

Sim: 13:35: Hello, I am Simone Salis, and this is The Hoomanist support for this show comes from you, if you would like to keep enjoying new episodes regularly please become a supporter now visit Hoomans.ist/ support.

I am Simone Salis, and this is The Hoomanist today with guest Tim Kazurinsky, Actor, Screenwriter, and SNL Alumnus. So, Tim how was your first cast at the Second City? I think Jim Belushi wasn't there.

T. Kazurinsky: Jim Belushi came later, oh boy my cast officially ended up being Mary Gross, Bruce Jericho, Nancy Kelly, then Jim Belushi came in. Rob Riley for a time, and Audrey Ninan who has played the Judge on Law & Order about 30 times, she's a redhead. Loved Audrey she was great, we all went out after the show every night. We drank until in the morning, we hung out together though but which further cemented I don't know that. I came back years later and that sort of wasn't going on everybody went their own ways but the camaraderie with our group was very; very special. And maybe our affinity for alcohol was especially I don't know but we hunt, we went out every night, weirdly Steppenwolf was just growing at that time and a bunch of the Steppenwolf Actors would come and sit on the bench and watch us case, you know sometimes they could give Bernie this free beer after the show. It was one of the perks of the job so those Steppenwolf guys used to like to take advantage of those free drinks too, Malkovich and Terry Kinney and Jeff Perry wonderful Laurie Metcalf an amazing…

Sim: Amazing people of the…

T. Kazurinsky: Joan Ellis.

Sim: Yeah, wolf-like and then like like you've just said.

T. Kazurinsky: It cost ten bucks to go see their shows and was the best you know the best work being done in the world.

Sim: Yeah not anywhere else in the world for that amount of money.

T. Kazurinsky: I know John Mahoney I mean you're forgetting Terry Kenny amazing people.

Sim: You've got an 80% cut, your pay cut but you got an 80% increase in happiness.

T. Kazurinsky: Exactly; exactly and then after about a year I started going out and doing auditioning and doing voiceover work and so instead of writing you know commercials radio and TV commercials now I was going out and auditioning for them which was sort of odd. And I boosted my income by doing radio and TV…

Sim: And commercial.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: And that makes sense.

T. Kazurinsky: So, you know a couple years later I was making more money than I used at Leo Burnett rather.

Sim: Well how was it studying with Dell because you say that there was a something for you of getting on stage, there that kind of like fear or concern at first and then you win over that and you get a kick out of it out of the performance.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: And you were able to wear your glasses, and I think that's something fairly famous that Dell Close you to say used to say, you know follow your fear.

T. Kazurinsky: Very much Dell you know he got me to understand that; that fear, that nervousness is energy, you take that energy and you channel it and you funnel it into what you're doing and quite honestly I never ever got over that; that fear that tension before. Not just before every opening, every night I was a couple of years on main stage at Second City and there was not a night that I went on that I didn't have butterflies, and it was the same with Saturday Night Live well of course you know I was there eighty one, two, three, four he was before every show.

It scared the shit out of me I was you know, you're doing a 90-minute show, new show every week we put up a couple of shows a year at Second City but here you were they're coming. There's a new train every week and you've got, you know five days to put a 90 minutes show together, and that was terrifying, so…

Sim: Really schedule.

T. Kazurinsky: Really schedule and questionable material that you're going out in front of 20 million people and you could die out there…

Sim: Yeah, there is just so much time, right…

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: To write it, pitch it, try it, like rehearse it and then go alive. How did you get to SNL from…?

T. Kazurinsky: Well, I oddly didn't really ever have to audition for Second City, and then with Saturday Night Live I didn’t audition for that either because I probably would have failed miserably. But I found out later that John Belushi had seen me on stage and had recommended to this new producer at SNL, Dick Ebersol said you should take a look at this guy. And so Ebersol unbeknownst to me he had flown in, saw the show left and didn't even speak to me, you know a few months later I'd been up doing a show in Canada with John Candy wonderful man John Candy a show called Big City Comedy which I had written the pilot for.

So, when I got back he showed up in town and Ebersol started talking to me about stuff, and he's buying me drinks at the pump room. And I'm like, okay free drinks on, and I'm giving him advice like you know who to look for and not realizing and then he offered me, he asked he, said that he wanted me to come and work on the show. And I'm like, oh my God I never half-drunk at this time and I'm going I think I just got a writing job at Saturday Night Live and then, of course, I said yes.

Sim: Was there an 80% cut?

T. Kazurinsky: No, it was about an 800% boot and then about five minutes later he asked, if I had an AFTR card, American Federation of Television and Radio - I said, why would I need an AFTR card, and he said well everybody on the cast has to be AFTR, and I said, “ did you say cast”. And he said, “yeah”, “ I said I was in the cast”? He said, “ why do you think I hired you”, I said as a Writer, and then he said, “ oh, do you write”? I’m like, oh my God my whole image of what was going on was that I was a Writer and all my time at Second City I was writing on my feet. So, but I never really thought of myself as an Actor I'd assumed he hired me for the writing staff, and it was for acting, so it was like okay that's pretty weird.

Sim: So, you found out about this how many days before going like starting to work as a cast member?

T. Kazurinsky: Oh, was in three weeks.

Sim: Three weeks, okay.

T. Kazurinsky: And I remember when I went into New York there was somebody waiting at the airport to pick me up, an NBC page came and I was like, oh my God and then had a limousine, a limo, oh my God…

Sim: For Mr. Kazurinsky.

T. Kazurinsky: I am farting through silk now, and the page we went to get the luggage, and I had a suitcase that had rope tied around it coming into Ellis Island my suitcase is old and broken and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one. And so I remember the page when he picked up my suitcase and was… and he looked at it, and it was so pathetic and he had this look, why does he have rope tied around his luggage.

Sim: That's who we get now on the cast list.

T. Kazurinsky: That's who we get now they're scraping the barrel here.

Sim: But you ended up staying a few years and actually having many different roles in working with people like, well you know with Eddie Murphy he was doing… I didn't grow up here but I know about Mr. Rodgers and you know the parody was pretty great and he was so young.
T. Kazurinsky: He was so young and so gifted, and he really was an idiot savant of comedy, we should divert and talk about Eddie because after I did my first show at SNL. There was a Writer's strike, and all of a sudden and but that one show and I found out later it was pretty much just they were going to decide whether to keep it alive or not. Because Gene Domainian had done a few shows that had gone badly, it was really on a razor's edge if they're gonna keep doing the show or not. But that one show that we did was a knockout show, it really was terrific and Eddie was brilliant, and my monkey scene for the first time with a live show…

Sim: That was also your first time doing the monkey scene?

T. Kazurinsky: First time, yeah so and there was a baby chimp and it refused to come out on the stage and improvising with a large chimpanzee and the baby's not coming out. I'm thinking this is it my career is over.

Sim: I think that's also why he was hilarious because that’s in the archives and people can go see it on the SNL Website…

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah; yeah and the circus trainer, it was not a trained Chimp or whatever, it was this crazy Romanian with a cowboy hat and he thought he wasn't going to get paid. So, when the baby Chimp wouldn't come out he throws it, rolled like the Chimp like a little baby Chimp, like a bowling ball.

Sim: And he was screaming like the baby Chimp, I was looking at that clip and I thought it could not happen today, they would be like probably picketing or protests but you had a remarkable patience because the chimp would not come out for two minutes and you kept like doing a kind gesture.

T. Kazurinsky: Yes, please come out and save my career, yeah I need you to do the rest of the scene, so the reason I wanted to do that because people would say, you know when do you guys tape the show? I'm going, no it's live, it's Saturday Night Live don't you forget it, you think it's like live on tape, no it's actually live and so I thought if I work with the chimpanzee's something will happen and people know that it's live.

Sim: And it worked.

T. Kazurinsky: It worked a little too well.

Sim: Eddie Murphy came to the Second City at the time, like when you guys… he visited the Second City with you?

T. Kazurinsky: Yes.

Sim: And you brought him?

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah I brought him because when it went on strike Dick Ebersol said take Eddie and Joe back, and Joe he didn't like it. He had difficulty with it, Eddie was the literally the only person on the planet that I know of that without any training and Bell Close any input of improv training could walk onto the Second City stage and be totally comfortable with whatever was going on. He was remarkable that's why, that's when I started realizing that he was an idiot savant of comedy, honest to god I worked with him for years at Saturday Night Live and then one night after a show the producer said we're going to Studio 54 for a party, and I said “what's the occasion”? And he said it's Eddie's 21st birthday, and he’s dong this for like four years already, he was a baby I mean but he was so good.

Sim: So, do you think that that also was part of like he's being so spontaneous in improv, like having that fresh approach?

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, I think it brings out the child in you it's the ability to play, improvising is playing and as we get older we get more cautious we don't want to embarrass ourselves. We don’t want to make a fool of ourself, well improv is you have to be prepared to make a fool of yourself, if you like making a fool of yourself, here we go, Jay, come and join me. And Eddie could, he was still 17, he was probably 17 at the time I don't know, ridiculous and he could just absolutely do that. I took him to my Dentist, Doctor [25:02 inauduble] because at that point Eddie didn't have enough money to get this tooth filled, and I said, oh come on Will, will fill your tooth. I know that Eddie didn't have, you know 50 bucks to get us his tooth filled.

Sim: Yes, it's insane.

T. Kazurinsky: And so, Will say to me Eddie never paid me for that, I said if he ever paid that 50 bucks you'd be out of a good story Will said.

Sim: Yeah, that’s true.

T. Kazurinsky: Now, he is wonderful.
Sim: What makes you laugh? What kind of comedy award, what is a single thing two things that make you have a good laugh for you comedy-wise?

T. Kazurinsky: I think the shock factor, the unexpected factor, the not knowing what's coming. I like dark humor you know going back I like Chaplin and Keaton. They told stories without words, it was… their stuff was not, it was also very; very heavy. I like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor the truth…

Sim: Seer, the truth tellers.

T. Kazurinsky: The the truth tellers, yeah, the guys they were like Ministers, they were like Priests. They changed society with their comedy and they just held up this mirror to society and said that this is what's wrong, and it's… they did more to change you know life in America I think then anybody in a pulpit, you know that's started on a religion, please God save us from them.

Sim: Looking at some of your sketches in the Second City archives, there is and also your work with physical comedy in Police Academy, you do have this duality of having a strong physical component in all of your characters, and now from what you're telling me also an appreciation for the truth-tellers intellectually speaking.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, the shock value I think of comedy the unexpected, it's when somebody says something that you don't expect or says the truth or something that the audience may be thinking that nobody would say, and then you say it. That outrageous thing, and everybody just spontaneously their lungs spasm with laughter, they sat uncontrolled. The comedy that takes you by surprise that you don't expect is always so much fun.

Sim: It's inevitable for me to ask you about Police Academy, no it's not inevitable. I will ask you [27:33 cross talking].

T. Kazurinsky: There is your physical comedy.

Sim: Yeah, there was one of those like ensemble movies with like big cast of characters and a lot of trophies…

T. Kazurinsky: There is actually a name for them, Gang Comedies.

Sim: Gang Comedy.

T. Kazurinsky: Gang Comedy and I think Revenge of the Nerds was like a Gang Comedy, and sort of Animal House was a Gang Comedy, and they've sort of died away and I miss that so.

Sim: Your first appearance was in the Second movie, and how did you end up working there in Police Academy?

T. Kazurinsky: I was on my honeymoon I had just gotten married and left SNL, was fired and Joe Piscopo and I and Robin Doo, Brad Hall, again so I was on my honeymoon and I got a call, two of the Writers that I'd written with at Saturday Night Live Barry Blaustein and David Sheffield had written Police Academy 2. And they said, would you… when you get back from your honeymoon would you come do a day under the titles of this movie? Just play this lamp store owner who gets you know harassed by a gang leader which is Bobcat Goldthwait. So, I said sure, yeah and my wife was sort of saying gosh, why don’t you just take a day's work on you know after coming off a Saturday Night Live. And I said, well then they're friends and what goes around comes around, so I get out there we shoot the stuff and they fired the Director that day.

Sim: After your scene?

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, they fired the Director, and we just my wife and I was staying a couple of days to visit friends and they called and said don't leave town because the new director came in and that was Jerry Paris, and he didn't like what was being shot and neither did the Producer. And so Jerry Power said, I like the gang leader and the old guy in the lamp store, so I said well it was just a day player, well keep him around. Six weeks later I was still in town working on the movie Bobcat and I would go into work in the morning and literally Gerry Paris would say to us okay, we're shooting in a supermarket today, what do you guys want to do? We, this is like ridiculous that we sort of had carte blanche and just we throw up idea and say, how about a bomb attack, what if we hide Tim in the lettuce bin and he’d pup a head of lettuce and he's under there. And and he just kind of let us wake it up as we went along.

Sim: And so a big part of it was improvised

T. Kazurinsky: Oh yeah.

Sim: In Police academy 2?

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah not the rest of the movie, she's Bob and I…

Sim: Just your part

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: Well, they were insane enough.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah and literally none of this existed, I was just really there for the day and here we are like four weeks later we're out the blue oyster bar outside the leather gay bar, and saying what do you guys want to do? And I just had this image of me with a broken arm turning it and hitting someone in their head but this weirdly, then I remembered two Iranian Doctors actually put a splint on my arm and cut it off. And then they cut the skin on my arm when they removed the splint…

Sim: On my arm?

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, and they are like, please don't tell the producer, we don't want to get in trouble. But it was really great fun, and weirdly they do those reports it was sign-in cards at the end of testing. And I guess all the kids liked me and Bob, so they brought us back for this Academy 3, an elderly lamp store owner and a gang leader joined the police force.

Sim: Yeah, you were on a Vespa or something when you…

T. Kazurinsky: I was riding in a Vespa and Bobcat is on a Harley, okay well I actually had a motorcycle and could ride a motorcycle Bob couldn't ride a bicycle. So, his Harley is strapped to a flatbed truck, and he's sitting on that and so I have to drive along, keep pace on the Vespa with the truck so that we're both in camera at the same time. Look like I can't drive a motor and so Bob's the, you know the big tough Marlon Brando guy but he's actually strapped to a flatbed truck.

Sim: So, that is another thing that just happened exactly SNL showing up; and calling you.

T. Kazurinsky: Exactly I often say I'm the luckiest man in showbiz.

Sim: 32:42: Hello Simone Salis here, this is The Hoomanist honest conversations for technologically aware contemporary humanists, get new episodes as soon as they are released on Apple and Google Podcasts, Spotify, Alexia or on Hooman.ist. I am your host Simone Salis, and this is The Hoomanist with today's guest Tim Kazurinsky. Tim is an Actor and Screenwriter from SNL and Police Academy. And Tim when did you start writing with the Second City?

T. Kazurinsky: Yes, I’m always a Writer as a kid writing compositions in school and I always kept a journal, I was a short story Writer. Writing was always my stock and trade, that's why I ended up I became…

Sim: Advertising.

T. Kazurinsky: Screenwriter with the advertising [33:27 cross talking] Journalism, Reporter, then an Ad Man for my Madmen Days. Luckily I had written again here Mr. Lucky.

Sim: About listening.

T. Kazurinsky: About last night Del Close said, take us you need to take an acting class, you know that's what you need a scene study class, so I took one it was Patricia Cox, William Hedge Macy, David Mamet. And it took an acting class, a scene study class from David Mamet…

Sim: Which was the Author of…

T. Kazurinsky: Sexual perversity in Chicago [cross-talking] yes after the first class he pulled me aside me, and he said you lying son of a bitch you haven't had a… you supposed to have had some acting classes before. I said scene study class time, and he said you haven't taken one of these and he said okay, I just had an improv class, that doesn't count.

Sim: So, it started with the feared like the reason was…

T. Kazurinsky: Yes

Sim: Year of going up on stage and then you start to get a kick out of it.

T. Kazurinsky: Oh, yeah because it's an adrenaline rush to go out there and you're unarmed, it's like the Christians and the Lions, it's you know there's an element of danger. It's a high-wire act and that's really what improv is so much like, that making that leap and just assuming that somebody else on stage is going to grab you as you fly through the air. And when you've got the right cast of people you trust is implicit, and they catch you, and they help you land safely. There's only one other guy, I need some men for the women to do scenes with, so I'm going to let you stay around, and he grudgingly let me stay in the class and then he kind of like my work. And he asked me to do this scene called Litko, which was named after the Bernie Litko Character, and you remember John Belushi was a on stage at Second City. David Mamet was a dishwasher at Second City when John Belushi was on stage, so that's…

Sim: You were a busboy…

T. Kazurinsky: From Wetah, that's from whence the Bernie Litko character came from about last night but he was going to have me do this scene with him, and then he had to go off because he had a show opening in New York. And then he… when he became David Mamet and then weirdly a couple of years later I end up writing the screenplay version…

Sim: Without being in touch with him.

T. Kazurinsky: Without being in touch with him, well he had written one for Paramount and they had rejected it.

Sim: So, they were looking for a Writer…

T. Kazurinsky: So, they were looking for other writers through the adaptation, so it ended up with me and Denice Declue. It was a big hit…

Sim: Yeah, the movie became a classic the… who is in it? Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Jim Belushi…

T. Kazurinsky: Jim Belushi, yeah Elizabeth Perkins.

Sim: And there was a remake recently.

T. Kazurinsky: Yes, they did a remake, yeah they were…

Sim: I have not seen it, have you?

T. Kazurinsky: No.

Sim: Okay, Jesse in New York.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, yeah didn't…

Sim: You were involved in that?

T. Kazurinsky: No; no; no. But they had to put our name on the…

Sim: That’s the arrangement.

T. Kazurinsky: The credits that it was adapted from our version and not just David Mamet because it very much followed our plot structure for but the screenwriting allowed me, and plus I was married and had two kids and…

Sim: When did you meet your wife?

T. Kazurinsky: In New York 19, 1888…

Sim: Not that far, sir.

T. Kazurinsky: 1984 she was doing a Broadway show she did five Broadway shows.

Sim: She was also an actress?

T. Kazurinsky: Actress, Singer, Dancer, Actress she'd done Chorus Line for four years, she did chorus line in New York…

Sim: On Broadway?

T. Kazurinsky: On Broadway, yeah, so we met for a drink and I was smitten and that I was like, oh my God she's amazing, and then the I asked her out and four weeks later I proposed.

Sim: Wow.

T. Kazurinsky: And she said yes, and three months after that we got married. I… probably everybody at our wedding that came to our wedding had told us we were crazy and we shouldn't do it. You don't even know each other except Uncle Bill, her Uncle Bill was an old red William K red Farqueson, he was the only one that said great I never liked that guy she was with.

Sim: He was rooting for you.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: The first time I've ever saw you was briefly with Mr. Davis Kwazy at Emo Philips Show which was an Emo Philips show, was a Weird Al's show.

T. Kazurinsky: A Weird Al’s show, yeah.

Sim: With Emo, Vadam but I'm pretty sure that you enjoy Emos comedy.

T. Kazurinsky: I adore Emo’s comedy and in fact at one point was going to try and do some promos for him to help his career but he's done fine but I love his stand-up it's really bizarre and dark as you know just my kind of thing.

Sim: This is darkness in [38:26 inaudible]

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah

Sim: Like you.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, I really just Emo it’s gets better with every, it's just his last show I saw I thought was that's just genius there's nobody doing that stuff. He's wonderful really weird Al I knew because he had come to see Wicked in LA and I gave a backstage tour to his wife and beautiful daughter, and now he sends me Christmas cards.

Sim: From we are now…

T. Kazurinsky: Emails Christmas cards from weird Al man, it's wonderful, it's a very lovely fellow.

Sim: 39:02: Speaking of wicked you also were the voice for the Wizard in her traveling…

T. Kazurinsky: Yes I played The Wizard of Oz, now my wife had done five Broadway shows, and she'd always done musical, now she would launch to do like Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw and she got me to do a musical here called Hairspray out at Drury Lane and I got the job as the Dad in Hairspray. And I had such a great time, it was a wonderful cast the Lillian Castillo and Michael Aaron Lindner and Rod Thomas. We had a ball and went, oh my God these are so much fun why did I just discover at the age of 65 how much fun musicals are.

Sim: They give you an energy.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, and so then I ended up…. don't ask me how my agent sent me to audition for Wicked, and I landed the role as The Wizard of Oz and had a sing two songs and do a little dance. And I don't sing and I don't dance but apparently, you don't have to be good at that shit…

Sim: So, that's what they were.

T. Kazurinsky: And I toured for 14 months with the first national tour of Wicked in 17 cities and ended with a 14-week sit at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, so wonderful.

Sim: Earlier you mentioned how some Comedians were able to shine a light and some hypocrisy on from their point of view on religion and society and those kind of things. Did you grow up religious? Were your family religious when you growing up?

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, I know my mother took us to church, not every week but you know and there we will…

Sim: Christmas.

T. Kazurinsky: Get us cleaned up and put on some nice clothes and go to church, and I was… I think religious when I was young. I remember she once sent me off to a camp that was a Mormon camp….

Sim: Were you Mormon?

T. Kazurinsky: And I had… I was memorizing passages from the Bible and getting prizes and but then they wanted me to join the Mormon Church and I was like, yeah that's not going to happen.

Sim: Yeah I'm not going to get that call.

T. Kazurinsky: No; no; no, and I was also, you know getting sort of disaffected by the Catholic Church. And you know just starting to go… why do bad things happen to good people and where was God on this day when… and I just started to question the whole notion of…

Sim: Religious belief.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, and just seemed just like so much bullshit and this is literally where I'm like about 12 years old. I just went this is a load of horseshit I'm not buying this anymore, it's just… none of it made sense and in particular, the Catholic Church that you know that they would not allow women to be priests…

Sim: Yeah, they still does.

T. Kazurinsky: You crazy…

Sim: Roman Catholics still does.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah I mean, the Jews have female Rabbi. I said you know Anglican ministers can be women what's the matter? What’s going on, you know?

Sim: What is the most satisfactory thing? You know in your career you did so many different things, you literally where musicals in Broadway and Police Academy which is a huge franchise. Like it's a famous; famous major franchise screenwriter on stage, the Second City, what is probably many but if you had to pick one or two pieces of work that you're really affectionate about, that you're happy that you were able to work on and you think you're proud of it.

T. Kazurinsky: Probably for work wise, I wrote a script for a producer named Jeff Pope, he was a wonderful man and a couple years ago he co-wrote Philomena and was nominated for an Oscar.

Sim: Yeah.

T. Kazurinsky: And now he's got this new film about Laurel and Hardy coming out. But he had hired me to write this film called My Beautiful Son, and it was from e their factual drama department at the ITV and it starred Julie Walters, Paul Reiser. In America it was released as movie called Strange Relations, it was my favorite film I've done, about Last Night was a bigger success, this one My Heart Strange Relations, Julie Walters won the BAFTA for her performance the British Academy Award, and I got nominated for screenwriting but didn't win. But I'm so happy to be… happy to be invited, but that's the probably the thing I'm most proud of…

Sim: Why, is that?

T. Kazurinsky: Well it's a weird, it was an actual story, a man who was diagnosed with leukemia and he goes and to tell his mother that he's going die before she does, and she confesses and this was a true story. She confesses that he was adopted in England, and he was a Doctor in New York and she told him… they'd never told him he was adopted, and if he went back to England if he found his birth mother siblings make the best bone marrow donors. And that was what we… in reality, he had gone back there and found his mother and she had no other children. But the premise was what if there were other siblings? How would this story have gone? And that was what I had to work with, and the film that I wrote from that which was shot in Liverpool as now Strange Relations as Paul Reiser played the Doctor and the Olympia Dukakis was his American mother, and Julie Walters was his Liverpool mother.

He finds her and I created her as a cleaning lady in the worst slum of Liverpool, so he's this wealthy New York Jewish Doctor, and she has two sons and he has to try and con them out of bone marrow. And weirdly when I showed up on set, and to be filming this in Liverpool I'd gone for a couple of weeks research and then came back for the shoot, when Julie Walters walked onto the set in her house dress I kind of broke down in tears. And realized oh yeah, I patterned her on my Mother, and sort of subconsciously and I was like oh of course; of course, she has that spirit, that language and it was, yeah I'm getting choked up again. When I was young my Mother was a wonderful; wonderful mother she you know turn to alcohol, and she was an alcoholic by the time she passed.
But raising those five kids and you know for the Dad that didn't bring home really a paycheck she was you know a pretty remarkable woman but it wasn't literally wasn't until Julie walked on set and that schmata, that house dress that I realized, oh God, of course, I've had [46:25 inaudible] my mom was my duffel and hat to my dear departed Mom.

Sim: Whatever you wrote showed up in your writing, showed up also in front of you and that's when you realized that…

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah; yeah, oh boy.

Sim: You could see your writing embodied.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah, and I was like but she was Julie Walters amazing performer she just… I can't imagine anybody in the world playing it better than she did, she just a great; great actress. Paul Reiser was great, and the two guys that played his brothers, Anthony Maudsley and Ian Puleston Davies, they just turned in performances that were more than what was on the page. Everybody made me look good.

Sim: I'm going to ask you just one more thing because earlier when I asked you to think that you were the most proud or was closest to your artwork…

T. Kazurinsky: Besides my wife and children.

Sim: Exactly that was the thing because I asked you like what is the part of your work and the thing that you immediately say was like, workwise which led me to think that all right then what was you thinking the very first thing that it wasn't workwise. Because when I ask you what you were proud of, you said mmm workwise.

T. Kazurinsky: Workwise, yeah.

Sim: What about likewise? What about Tim Wise?

T. Kazurinsky: Life Trump's work, others use the saying, new host, new music group every week. Careers waxing and waning and you see everybody's struggle to deal with that green-eyed monster of success, it was all a microcosm of literally Little Shop of Horrors feeding the plant, what do you do for money? What do you do for success? How much of your soul do you give up? You get to the point where you kind of stop wanting to meet your heroes and people you idolize because they have feet of clay. And I think a life well-lived is more important than in a career that is you know, what do you give up? How many marriages? How many you know that you weren't around for your children? Would you know, thing gives me most happiness, my wife and my kids and that's what life's all about. The other stuff is just the shits and giggles they say…

Sim: A good time.

T. Kazurinsky: A good time, yeah. I've had a good time, I had a lot of fun and been very; very lucky, and it's about a great life.

Sim: And who knows maybe you'll do… you did your Broadway so, [48:51 cross talking]

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah.

Sim: Political debut.

T. Kazurinsky: Yeah; yeah, and it's all as Dell Close said, and Viola Spolin, yes and you agree, yes and I will try that. And if you open to trying new things… when I did Wicked, when I got that job I had no idea that I would be flown to Pittsburgh and have two weeks to learn this role and go out. It was such an adventure and I was like I don't know if I can do this, and I called home to Jean Wygant who had played it here in Chicago, and I said I don't know if I can do this and he said yes; yes you can. He played the wicked The Wizard in Chicago he gave me three tips to do it, he said it's going to be crazy, he said you're never going to practice it in costume until the night you go on.

You're never going to play it here with an orchestra till you go on, he said and weirdly you're going to have to climb on to the back of the head of the wizard head and hold on because it doesn't fit any stage on the road and you can't climb down onto the stage until it's gone three feet into the stage. He said and it's going to be a cacophony, it's going to sound like World War two, there's going to be lights, there's going to be smoke and music the whole band and you'll only have heard it with the piano. And he said, just hang on for dear life and once you get through it, as old as I was at the time, going out there doing this. It was so scary, and so it's thrilling at the same time, and it was just like, how the hell did this happen? How did I get here? And I'm riding out on a stage in Pittsburgh having just replaced John Davidson as the wizard I'm going this is crazy but here I am 14 months of fun what can I say.

Sim: So, yes and still yes.

T. Kazurinsky: And everybody out there listening yes and just do it.

Sim: Mr. Tim Kazurinsky today on The Hoomanist, thank you so much.

T. Kazurinsky: Thank you Sim.

Sim: Tim Kazurinsky is a versatile writer and performer showing his talents through the decades on stage movies he is an SNL alumnus who played with luminaries like Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. You can find out more about Tim on his official website Tim kazurinsky.net

P.S. Did you enjoy this? Subscribe to the 🎧 Podcast and get new episodes first with the 💌 Newsletter.