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February 26, 2001
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SJP


Steve Zahn has a smart funny humour
By LIZ BRAUN


NEW YORK -- How people are funny is a difficult thing to describe. According to his castmates in Saving Silverman, however, Steve Zahn's humour is easy enough to peg.

"He's smart funny," sums up Amanda Detmer, an opinion echoed by Jack Black and Jason Biggs, all of whom appear with Zahn in the comedy.

He's smart funny in person, too. Waaay smart.

Playing a sort of demented innocent has made Steve Zahn a comedy hero to many. He was the stoner innocent in Out Of Sight and the con-on-the-lam innocent who has to teach little beauty queens in Happy, Texas. He's the buddy innocent in Saving Silverman; this one is a broad comedy about two bumbling friends saving a third from a calculating woman.

"I'm horrible on sets," admits the actor, smiling in spite of himself. "I laugh all the time." Indeed, word on the filming of Saving Silverman (it's currently in theatres) is that several scenes took longer than they should have because the cast and crew couldn't stop breaking up laughing.

Asked what he personally finds funny, Zahn says, "I don't laugh at farts and stuff. I laugh at people taking themselves seriously." He adds, "I was surprised people laughed so hard at Out of Sight. That guy," he says, of his character, "he was scared."

Asked who he thinks is funny, Zahn mentions Bob Newhart and his own father. "My dad laughed at everything," he says. "He's a sweet guy. He got me George Carlin albums, and my mom would be freaking out, because, you know, George Carlin! And I was a little kid."

Zahn's sweet dad is a Lutheran minister and his mom is a YMCA administrator. The actor, who is 33, grew up outside Minneapolis and briefly attended Gustavus Adolophus College before moving on to local theatre and then to the acting program at the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard. Zahn met his wife, actress Robyn Peterman (daughter of famed clothing catalogue person J. Peterman) when they both toured in Bye Bye Birdie; they have one son, who is about two years old.

Right now Zahn is a busy guy. He's going to appear in Riding In Cars With Boys, Penny Marshall's movie, opposite Drew Barrymore.

"It's really a different role for me," he says, explaining that he and Barrymore's character meet in high school and have a child together.

"And I leave. I'm not a very good guy in this one."

In March, another Zahn movie opens here -- Squelch. It's a thriller, says Zahn. "It's about how we mess with a trucker. And then," he adds, brightly, "he terrorizes us."

Zahn is also in Doctor Dolittle 2. As well, having voiced a character in Stuart Little, he will do so for the sequel. He's also one of the voices in Disney's upcoming video release of Lady & The Tramp II. He's a busy guy.

He's hardworking off the big screen, too. Zahn lives on a farm in New Jersey, "Where all my buddies are not actors." And no, he says, he's not the local amusing guy to his farm friends. "My buddy Rich is funny. I'm not funny," says Zahn.

"I'm weird guy."


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