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‘It’s nerve-racking when you haven’t done it for a while’

Kevin James has come a long way from the time he showed up to a stand-up gig at a bachelor party only to discover that the guests were expecting a stripper instead.

“The stripper didn’t show and they put me up onstage,” James told Yahoo Entertainment. “And I had to stand on a chair in the middle of a bunch of guys and do my act. It was pretty rough, but I left with a lot of tips that night.”

The King of Queens star is returning to his stand-up roots with his latest show, “Owls Don’t Walk.” He’s currently touring across the U.S. with dates through June and will end his run in Salt Lake City. James admits returning to the stand-up stage where he started his career can feel intimidating after time away.

“It’s nerve-racking when you haven’t done it for a while, like when you’re doing a new show. You gotta oil the muscles again and get everything working again. You go through that a couple of shows, and you get your legs,” James told Yahoo Entertainment at Jimmy Fund Day on May 18, where Dana-Farber Cancer Institute patients get the chance to play baseball at Fenway Park. “I wouldn’t say nervous anymore. I think it’s more that I get excited. I just love doing stand-up.”

Kevin James, wearing a Jimmy Fund shirt, on the field at Fenway Park.Kevin James, wearing a Jimmy Fund shirt, on the field at Fenway Park.

Kevin James at Fenway Park. (John Deputy)

Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., James idolized comics like Steve Martin and Robert Klein. When he finally made it to Saturday Night Live to audition, he bombed. He saw it as a tremendous failure at the time, but now sees it as one of the best things that ever happened to him.

“You feel like, ‘Oh, no, what did I do?'” James recalled. “It bombed. But I’m so happy it did. I really am.”

James eventually skyrocketed to stardom opposite Leah Remini and Jerry Stiller in the long-running sitcom The King of Queens. He also made a name for himself in film, scoring wins with movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Here Comes the Boom.

However, it was his role in 2005’s Hitch with Will Smith where he solidified his spot in the romantic comedy world. Earlier this month, Screen Daily reported James would delve back into rom-coms with Solo Mio, in which he’ll play a groom who gets stood up at the altar in Italy and decides to go on his honeymoon alone. It’s an exciting return for James, who says he feels like “in a way, those movies aren’t made anymore.”

“There aren’t that many of them,” he said. “I’m gonna bust my butt to make this thing. I do love those type of movies and I haven’t done one in a long time.”

James swings a baseball bat at Fenway.James swings a baseball bat at Fenway.

James at the plate. (John Deputy)

James also recently filmed Playdate, an action-comedy flick with Reacher star Alan Ritchson. The duo play stay-at-home dads who find themselves in trouble.

“It was great to work with him. He’s just an amazing guy, an amazing talent too,” James said of Ritchson. “It was an amazing experience. It’s pretty ridiculous. It’s a fun one.”

One of James’s frequent collaborators is Adam Sandler, who he met decades ago while starting out on the stand-up comedy circuit. The duo didn’t become friendly until James’s turn on The King of Queens, filming on the Sony lot where Sandler had an office.

“I just met him, hung out and talked and became really close. Now he’s one of my best friends and just the greatest guy in the world,” said James. “I’m very happy to be part of that camp. I really am. Any time he says, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of doing this,’ I say, ‘I’m in!'”

Sandler’s recent announcement that a sequel to the 1996 classic Happy Gilmore is in the works at Netflix prompts the question of whether James will make an appearance in the film.

“I don’t know, we’ll see. We’re talking about it,” said James. “Right now we’re working on some other stuff. And hopefully, yes. If it happens, I couldn’t tell you anyway. But I don’t know.”

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