Like many of the world’s current kings of comedy, Kevin James got his start in stand-up. The comedy chops that James showed offscreen earned him an onscreen role in “The King of Queens,” which ran for nearly 10 years.
After that came a string of successful comedies co-starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and other big names. Now James is back behind the microphone and performing at the Mahalia Jackson in New Orleans on March 4.
A New York native, James began performing stand-up comedy all the way back in 1989. Appearances on late night talk shows such as Letterman, Leno, and Conan O’Brian helped the comedian earn his own special, 2001’s “Kevin James: Sweat the Small Stuff,” in which he discusses Jet Ski inaptitude, what to do with the Saran wrap they use to keep your muffins fresh and why you should never buy a 38-pack of underwear for a dollar.
After a few smaller TV roles on “The New Candid Camera” and on an MTV sports show, James hit it big playing blue-collar husband and delivery man Doug Heffernan on “King of Queens.”
In the show, he and his wife, Carrie (Leah Remini), dealt with her eccentric father, Arthur (Jerry Stiller), and their own marital problems. James’ performance earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 2006.
The show’s nine seasons each boasted around 10 million viewers each, and with its final episode in May 2007, “King of Queens” became the last sitcom that debuted in the 90s to end its run.
James made the transition from television to the big screen through a co-starring role in “Hitch,” in which he played a businessman seeking the romantic advice of a dating guru (Will Smith). After that came co-starring roles alongside Sandler in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Grown Ups” and “Grown Ups 2,” which also starred Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider as childhood friends who reunite as adults with kids of their own in tow.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was James’ big starring breakthrough, grossing nearly $200 million. In the film, James plays a single dad whose hypoglycemic medical condition prevents him from following his dream of joining the New Jersey State Police and who takes his job as a mall security officer way too seriously. A sequel, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” features Blart protecting a mall in Las Vegas from a heist and is scheduled for release in April.
A lot has changed since James’ last big stand up special, 2001’s “Sweat the Small Stuff.” Since then, James has gone from a rising star to a big box office draw. Perhaps more importantly, in 2004, he got hitched to former model Steffiana de la Cruz, with whom he has three children and another on the way.
The New Orleans audience will have to wait and see how fatherhood will factor in to James’ stand-up, but chances are that he, like most parents, won’t be able to resist talking about his kids.
You can see James take the stage at 7 p.m. March 4 at the Mahalia Jackson.