Comedian Steve Hytner performs Tuesday at the William Dawson Theatre at Timmins High & Vocational School. Before creating the character of Kenny Bania on ‘Seinfeld,’ he had done stand-up comedy in New York. ANDREW AUTIO/THE DAILY PRESS jpg, TD, apsmc
‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Family Ties’ stars return to stand-up roots
Comedian Steve Hytner provided a barrel of laughs to an enthusiastic crowd on Tuesday night in Timmins.
Hytner, who is best known as the irritatingly enthusiastic comic Kenny Bania on the hit 1990s sitcom ‘Seinfeld’ was the headliner at the latest comedy show presented by the Timmins Rock junior A hockey club.
He was joined by Marc Price, who played Skippy on the hit 1980s sitcom ‘Family Ties’ as well as Thunder Bay based comics Taylor Green, and Chris Mulawyshyn, for the event which took place at the William Dawson Theatre at Timmins High & Vocational School.
For Hytner, Tuesday marked the furthest north in Canada he’s ever been.
“It’s completely unique to me, and I’m enjoying hitting these towns. It’s unique. I haven’t done it. I know all the cities in the states. This is a little different, and I’m enjoying it,” he told The Daily Press after the show.
The tour he has been on with Price has seen big city stops including Detroit and Toronto last month, and Sudbury earlier in the week.
He said he and Price had worked together a couple of years ago, and earlier this year, Price called Hytner to go on tour together.
“People seem to enjoy it. It’s a lot of comedy, and a little nostalgia. Stuff like that. It’s amazing how many generations come out. Because also during the pandemic, a lot of younger people got turned onto Seinfeld,” said Hytner.
Now 64, he has thoroughly enjoyed returning to his stand-up comedy roots.
“I did 26 years in L.A. That’s a full serving. I now live in the Lake Tahoe area. Absolutely beautiful and enjoying that. Because of that, I’m doing more stand-up than acting now, because I’m not in the L.A. area to go to auditions and whatnot.”
Hytner said for the most part when acting, there’s necessary collaboration with a hundred people or so, but with stand-up, it’s just the performer.
“I had taken about 20 years off of stand-up. In New York, I did some stand-up, but when I went out to L.A. I was really focused on acting. Things just started clicking, and for 20 years I just didn’t stop working,” he explained.
“Then, I needed to move up to the Tahoe area for some family reasons, and that’s when I said I should re-investigate stand-up. Look, when I was 24, my whole act was ‘why won’t she touch me?’ – now I have more to talk about. She still won’t touch me, but I have more to talk about,” he said with a laugh.
Hytner, who grew up on Long Island, knew Jerry Seinfeld a little before he was cast on the show.
“I wasn’t really doing stand-up with him, but in New York, you’d pass at certain clubs. He was out of The Comic Strip, and that’s the club I passed at. But he was kind of a graduating class ahead of me, but the same club. Jerry came out of there, Eddie Murphy came out of there, Paul Reiser, Larry Miller, and so on.”
It wasn’t until season six of the series when Kenny Bania made his first appearance on the show, offering Jerry a brand new Armani suit in exchange for a sit-down dinner.
“For Seinfeld, I was working a lot already, and they were interested in me for a guest spot. But I had previously auditioned for a few parts, and didn’t get them,” he said.
“But it turns out, Bania was the right one, and then it became a recurring part.”
So how much influence did Hytner have over his character?
“A huge influence, because all it really said was ‘the most annoying person in the world.’ I’ve told this story before, but I could overhear other people auditioning and they were very negative, like ‘hey you owe me’ and all this. That’s when, on a dime, I thought ‘what if he’s annoying because he adores Jerry?’ People could say ‘well that’s the character’ but it really wasn’t.”
“So when Larry(David) and Jerry were in that room, listening to 20 people do Bania as a kind of mean guy, and then I came in and did the puppy dog thing, they lost their minds and said ‘this is the one.’”
In the series, titular character Jerry Seinfeld describes watching Bania’s set like ‘being beaten with a bag of oranges’ – which wasn’t the case on Tuesday, as Hytner’s material featured family, the pandemic, some crowd work, and no jokes about Ovaltine, a staple of Bania’s act.
Tuesday’s weather in Timmins had some chilly winds and blustery periods, which Hytner wasn’t exactly enamoured with.
“Where I live up in Tahoe, it gets cold, but there’s just something about Canadian cold.”
Price, who appeared on season 4 of ‘Last Comic Standing’, entertained the crowd with his self-deprecating style, his exuberant love of applause, as well as the use of his smartphone to play various ringtones of some of his famous callers.
After the show, Price was busy meeting fans and signing autographs.
Hytner, and Price have a few more stops in northwestern Ontario before heading back into Minneapolis, then flying home for the holidays.
“My wife and I are actually going to London(England) for Christmas. She is a flight attendant, and we get a nice price.”
Hytner quite enjoyed the William Dawson Theatre, calling it incredible for a high school.
“There’s different kinds of venues. There’s bars and clubs, and then theatres. By nature, with a theatre you’re going to have a more focused and attentive audience.”