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Kevin James ‘The Zookeeper’ Interview

In ‘The Zookeeper,’ a lovable menagerie of zoo animals break their omerta in order to assist their lovable zookeeper (played by Kevin James) find love without leaving them behind. The 46-year-old comedian talked to us about what it was like working with wild animals and his love for the Mets (he named his second daughter Shea). We even made him admit that he’d toss his long time pal Ray Romano into the sea for Adam Sandler.

What were the animals like working with?
They were all very good. It was a little scary at first because you’re out there with them and they can just turn on you in one second and you’re just trusting your trainer knows them, that they’re going to be good but they were all really great. The one I was really scared of was the wolf. I had to shampoo him and he didn’t know me and he was kind of looking at his owner and then looking back at me as I was shampooing him, like who is this guy and that was a little frightening for me. There’s always that element of it being a little frightening that they’re there and there’s nothing in front of you. At that point you just start thinking, I don’t have to be the fastest, I just can’t be the slowest. If I can beat someone else they can get eaten.

The capuchin monkey was also in ‘The Hangover 2.’
She is a diva. First of all we shot our movie before ‘The Hangover’ but we’re released later so it looks like we’re following them but they followed us. I don’t even know how that movie did. Did it make any money?

‘The Zookeeper’ Trailer

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Um I don’t think so.
Ok then so whatever. No one even saw that movie. Yeah she would wait for me to get on set before she left the trailer, couldn’t make eye contact with her.

Any smell that surprised you?
I honestly didn’t know that bears had a smell like that. They seem cuddly but I was working with them and a musk came out of them. It was a definite smell that they have, it kind of shocked me, it wasn’t so great.

You co-wrote the movie and star in it. Did you also do the catering?
I did a little catering. By the way that was one of the things that annoyed me. You can’t have food on a set with animals because they can smell it and it will distract them. If you want a Snickers bar you’ve got to drive off set. If I would have known that I never would have done this movie. That’s one of the things where you go, ‘What?!’ No one told me this when we were writing this.

How did you get Cher to do the movie?
She read the script!

So are you BFF’s with Cher now?
I went and saw her show in Vegas. It was great. I didn’t get a shout out but I did get a lot of glitter on me.

Were you the only straight guy there?
I think I might have been. There was a huge, huge, huge crowd that was not heterosexual I will say that, I think … I’m basically sure. I’m guessing but yeah I think it’s a safe guess.

Getting Adam Sandler must have been very difficult.
Yes it was difficult. It was phone call after phone call. It was literally, ‘You’re doing this,’ ‘Okay.’

Do you hang out a lot?
We do honestly, we do. Ever since we shot ‘Chuck and Larry,’ we’ve become really close friends. It’s great to have somebody whose been through this business and been successful for 15, 20 years, just banging them out and giving me great advice … but more importantly his friendship.

Whose a better friend, Sandler or Romano?
Um, they’re both great friends and I’ve learned a lot from both of them but at this moment I hang out with Sandler a lot more but Ray’s awesome. I do my standup with Ray, we have a great time as well.

Hypothetical.So the three of you are in a rowboat and you can only save one of them.
Romano’s going. I got to save Sandler. Sandler feeds my kids. Ray doesn’t do anything. Ray can’t help me. What’s he going to do? Put me on his little TV show? Come on! I don’t need his stuff now. He helped me, he put me on ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ once.

You’re a Mets fan. Must be hard.
Why are you a Mets fan?

No, Yankees.
First of all … with that accent?

Actually my football team in Australia was always the loser team.
So then you should be a Mets fan.

I thought for once …
Oh, where life is easy and you buy all your championships? Actually I’m not a Yankees hater but yes, we are struggling.

Can’t you say that every year?
We were in it for a while and then we had some insane fall downs. We just crumbled, we don’t have a lot.

Academy Award or seeing the Mets win the World Series?
Listen I don’t think either of them are happening so if I can dream, I’m going to go to the Mets series.

You’ve thrown out first balls right?
Yes! It’s fun except when you skip it in the dirt. I’ve got an arm too so it’s not like I can’t make it. I can throw some heat but I get so nervous and they said to me the last time I did it, ‘Whatever you do don’t throw it in the dirt, just throw it high.’ And in my windup behind the catcher I see a bunch of old ladies and people gathering and I’m thinking I can’t throw high I’ll kill someone so I ended up skipping it.

Why can’t you skip it?
Because it looks like you can’t make it to the plate.

Looks like you’re throwing like a girl.
Exactly.

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