On the Scene: ‘Man’ at Work

Andy Fiddler's got no pluck.

Sure, he "The Man," but the he-man? No way.

A dental-supplies salesman coiled as tight as a violin string, Fiddler is a Stradivarius of stress. Put him on stage in front of a convention of dentists, and admire Fiddler's bridge work. But extract him from familiar territory, and watch his wisdom teeth crack from the tension.

A bi-molar experience? That's what "The Man" manages to be. And who better to scratch out a decent – decent? Funny! – tune as a dental Fiddler on the hoof than Eugene Levy.

"The Man" opens on Friday, Sept. 9.

If you're waiting for "Guffman," which Levy starred in as well as wrote, wait elsewhere. Here, the Canadian comic plays "The Man" opposite Samuel L. Jackson's jaded cop in a comedic mistaken-identity caper in which bad things happen to good people.

From gums to guns: Levy as a stolen-arms dealer? Well, at least he steals his scenes from out of Jackson's holster.

But then, the comic actor has always been best of show – or very close to it. With a bio bulging with comedic credits – as actor, writer and, in the case of the breezy "A Mighty Wind," folk singer – the SCTV scholar offers a history lesson in hilarity.

March Down The Movie Aisle!
And yet, here he is, seated on a couch in a Center City hotel, so quietly reserved, so refined – as American as … apple pie (considering he's Canadian), that you appreciate even more Levy's sensationally versatile C.V. Whether making a flash in "Splash" in 1984, or going from a bit part in "Father of the Bride" (1991) to father of the groom in "American Wedding" (2003), he's had a marvelous march down the movie aisle.

For your consideration … Levy's involved in four movies coming out next year, including a reprise of the informal repertory group made up of his first-rate Second City colleagues (such as Christopher Guest) in "For Your Consideration."

Pencil him in for even more. Oh, talking about pencils … "I don't know what it is about these characters," he says. "Going back to SCTV, they haven't been the sharpest pencils in the group. But they're innately good people."

And most seemingly with good Jewish genes. "It's funny, but the father in 'American Pie' is not identified" as Jewish, "but his name, never revealed in the movie, was Noah Levinstein."

That Noah's arc was a familiar one for fans of Levy's characters: nice Jewish gents whose social structure is upended by over-the-top upheavals. If Andy Fiddler's high-strung, he's also decidedly down to earth, the latter quality shared by the actor.

"I am who I am, you play who you are," says Levy, raised in a "Conservative, bordering on Reform" household. "The fact is I like to play nice guys."

And when it comes to nice guys, well, he the Man. "Actually, I never get the feeling that I'm 'the Man,' " he says with a smile. "I've always been a character guy who's found work – touch wood – who's happy to find a weekly pay check never too far away."

Farther away was his seminal stage appearance in a Canadian production of "Godspell" in 1972. So, what does one do for an encore after playing Jesus?

"Second City," he says of his long skein with the famous comedy company that was like a second skin.

And how to follow up his Fiddler? "Maybe I'll do 'Fiddler on the Roof' – the sequel!"



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