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Indispensable

Veteran comic Tim Meadows

Tim Meadows brings his comedy to Tacoma starting tonight through Saturday. Photo courtesy Tacoma Comedy Club

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Over the long, storied history of Saturday Night Live, two types of performers emerged as enduring successes. The first is a rangy, unpredictable juggernaut of comedy, a showboat for whom SNL's writers trip over themselves to generate flashy material. Bill Murray and Will Ferrell were that type, as is Kate McKinnon. The second is a consistently believable actor who's a gifted writer as well: Bob Odenkirk, say, or Tina Fey or Al Franken. They may not attract as much attention as the first type, but they're the glue that holds the show together year after year. Count Tim Meadows, appearing this month at Tacoma Comedy Club, among their indispensable ranks.

After studying broadcasting at Wayne State University, Meadows moved to Chicago and joined the Second City improvisational comedy troupe. In 1991, he was accepted into the cast of SNL alongside Adam Sandler and Robert Smigel. He stayed there for 10 seasons, a then-record feat. "It's just a great place to work," Meadows explains. "That made it easy to stick around so long, because you don't get many jobs like that in show business ... Being in a position of being able to create stuff and have it on air the same week was thrilling." His most popular character on that show, Leon Phelps aka "The Ladies Man," earned his own movie in 2000, co-written by Meadows, Dennis McNicholas and Andrew Steele.

In the early, pre-SNL days, Meadows saw himself as primarily an actor, and one can easily imagine him succeeding in dramatic features. He once said he'd love to perform Mamet on stage and screen, and he's done non-comic work in a holiday cable flick and an indie feature called Chasing Ghosts. "It was all drama, and it was good," Meadows says of Ghosts, "but in the business that I'm in, I've established myself as a comedic performer, so I don't expect people to really be considering me for the dramatic parts. I understand the way it is, and that's fine." He's embraced his niche by doing yeoman's work on sitcoms. In the last few years alone, he's made recurring appearances on Bob's Burgers, The Colbert Report, The Goldbergs, Marry Me, Son of Zorn and Suburgatory, plus memorable cinematic appearances in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and Trainwreck.

He tours as a comic, but says of most club audiences, "They know me from doing characters. They don't know me as just being in front of them talking about myself, so a lot of it is sort of an introduction to who I am and where I'm from, what I've been through." He's spent a fair amount of time hanging with Tacoma friends, though, so a warmer reception seems likely here. "I'm looking forward to Tacoma," he agrees. "It was fun the last time I was there."

Tim Meadows, 8 p.m., Thursday, May 25; 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 26 and 27, Tacoma Comedy Club, 933 Market St., Tacoma, $18-$27, 253.282.7203

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