Comic Kevin Nealon is still ‘pumped up’ about fitness

Comic and actor Kevin Nealon lifts weights as part of his fitness routine.
Comic and actor Kevin Nealon lifts weights as part of his fitness routine.
(Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

On “Saturday Night Live” in the late 1980s, Hans and Franz wanted to “pump you up.” These days, 61-year-old Kevin Nealon, a.k.a. Franz, is more interested in general fitness than in any desire to approach Schwarzenegger-size muscles. Even though Franz’s extolling of exercise was parody, Nealon does have a lifelong love of physical activity, a passion that began on another continent.

How did your interest in fitness start?

I lived in Germany from when I was 6 until I was 10, so, of course, I played soccer. When I came back to the States, nobody played soccer, and none of the schools taught German, so I couldn’t continue to excel in those categories. And so I switched to Little League. I also played a lot of pickup basketball games and sandlot football, where we played tackle without equipment. I also played rugby in college and was even quarterback for Fairfield University for a year. Their quarterback got hurt, and I took a night course in criminology so I would qualify to play.


Did you keep up with any of these sports?

It was football I enjoyed most. When I moved to L.A. to become a stand-up comedian, I thought it might be a good comedy hook to also be the punter for USFL club the L.A. Express, so I started practicing for the tryouts. Luckily my stand-up took off and I didn’t need to do it.

And I’ve always played pickup basketball. I was 5-foot-8 when I graduated high school, but then I shot up to 6-foot-4 and got more into playing basketball. I kept playing touch football too.

What other kinds of activity have you been up to since then?

I live up near Mulholland, so I would do these 10-mile runs. I was a runner since high school, but I don’t really do it anymore because I want to protect my knees. I’ve done enough damage over the years, so instead I do weight training. I used to go to the Hollywood YMCA when I first came here, and I was standing in front of the mirror doing curls, and I noticed this guy next to me also doing curls. He was grimacing a lot, and I noticed he had an underbite. I looked more closely and realized it was Bruce Springsteen.

I’ve been doing weights since high school, but not as a bodybuilder, just for training, just to stay fit. I still do it.


How long have you been vegetarian?

Since about 1989. I was dating someone who was interested in that, and we started doing research on it and talking to people. It was for a combination of ethical and health reasons. In general I try to eat healthy, but I have a problem with sugar. I’m like an alcoholic when it comes to chocolate. I try to stay away from junk food, but it’s hard.

You had a heart scare with atrial fibrillation.

Yes, it’s an irregular heartbeat, which in and of itself is not life threatening, but if you let it go it can cause a blood clot, which can lead to a stroke. For me, it happened in Mexico about 13 years ago. ... It was like a herd of horses running through my chest, and so I ended up in a Mexican hospital, which has always been my dream. When I got back to L.A., my doctor put me on a blood thinner. My heart is healthy now, and I’ve been working to raise awareness about A-fib. People can go to to learn more and hear my story.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of