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High on Life

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Jan. 29, 2007

Don’t blame Kevin Nealon if he seemed distracted at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last January. Every 15 minutes, he called his wife, actress Susan Yeagley, as she counted her contractions. A few hours after he got home, it was time for the couple to head from their Manhattan Beach, Calif., home to the hospital in Santa Monica. But first, Nealon, ever appreciative of a good sight gag, changed from his tuxedo into a pair of green sweatpants and a green shirt. “It was the closest I could get to scrubs,” he says. Soon, “we were driving along the water, and the sun was coming up. I looked over at my wife, who was having my baby, and I thought, this is such a miracle. No traffic!”

“Having a baby with a comedian husband,” says Yeagley with a sigh,” is an experience.”

Their son Gable is now 7 months old, and, at 53, Nealon is a first-time dad. “I always knew I was meant to be a father,” says the former Saturday Night Live star, who’s also getting some of the best reviews of his career as a marijuana-craving accountant on Showtime’s satirical comedy Weeds. “Now that I am one, all the pieces are coming together. It feels really right.”

His desire to be a parent, in fact, helped bring him and Yeagley, 36, together. Nealon, who was divorced from his first wife, Linda Dupree, 48, met Yeagley when they were having their makeup done for a pilot they taped in 2002. “I had been thinking loosely about adopting a child one day if I was single much longer,” says Nealon, adding that before then, “the time was never right, and the person was never right” to have a child. “You don’t hear much about single men adopting, and I was wondering aloud what the deal was. Maybe subconsciously, I was putting feelers out to see if she was interested.”

She was. The pair hit it off and wed in Italy in 2005. Marrying a man 17 years her senior “is the best secret out there,” says Yeagley, who has had roles on The Sarah Silverman Program and Reno 911! “He’s been around; he’s seen a lot. He’s committed to marriage and parenting, and it’s a blast.”

Nealon, a Connecticut native who got his start as a stand-up comic in the ’70s, is also happy that life has mellowed since his nine-year SNL run (his characters included bodybuilder Franz and Subliminal Man). “If I were younger I would feel like I needed to be at the comedy club or out with friends,” says Nealon. “Now, at 9 o’clock on Saturday night, I want to go to bed.”

After leaving SNL in 1995, Nealon worked steadily doing stand-up, along with TV and movie roles (such as in Anger Management and Happy Gilmore). His gig on Weeds has been a welcome return to his envelope-pushing SNL days. “It’s fun to be on a show that’s so naughty, because I’m not like that in real life,” he says. “I don’t smoke pot.” He doesn’t even eat meat: He’s a vegetarian (or, as he puts it, “a cheating vegan”) who recently filmed a pro-veggie ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Still, he managed to develop a sympathy belly. “He has hormones!” says Yeagley. “He gained 30 lbs. and I gained 28 during the pregnancy.” Explains Nealon: “It was maybe 60 percent sympathy, 30 percent stress, 8 percent nerves and 2 percent hunger. And I’m still gaining.”

Now Nealon keeps Gable entertained by playing the banjo (Nealon also performs on Clint Black’s album D’lectrified), reading to him and going to the nearby beach. Why the name? “We saw a poster at Kinko’s of Clark Gable,” says Yeagley. Whether Gable follows in his namesake’s—or his parents’—footsteps is up to him, she says. “Our job is to find out what he’s passionate about and push him toward that.”

“And then,” adds Nealon, “ride his coattails!”