Sketchy Things Everyone Just Ignores About Kevin James

Thanks to his role as Doug Heffernan on the popular CBS sitcom The King of Queens, which ran from 1998 to 2007, Kevin James earned a reputation in Hollywood as the "everyman" actor with funny parts in Paul Blart: Mall CopGrown Ups, and Zookeeper. He's also well-known as a clean comedian who doesn't use profanity or provocative material in his stand-up routine. 

While that seems like the makings of a squeaky clean celebrity — a rarity in Hollywood — James is no stranger to controversy and has demonstrated some questionable choices throughout his career. Whether we're talking big-time beefs behind-the-scenes, allegations of nepotism, or even the claim that one of his biggest movies might have been a stolen concept, there's a whole other aspect of James' career just under the cheery surface. 

This is the shady side of Kevin James.

A showrunner allegedly quit because of Kevin James

Kevin James returned to CBS in 2016 with a new sitcom called Kevin Can Wait. While the comedy about a retired police officer adapting to civilian life made a strong debut, it did not go over well with critics. New York magazine called it flat-out "terrible and unimaginative." Others couldn't help but notice its similarity to The King of Queens, particularly after James' TV wife, actress Erinn Hayes (pictured above), was killed off, and his former King of Queens TV spouse, actress Leah Remini, was welcomed aboard.

Critics may not have loved the show, but shortly after it debuted, CBS ordered a full season. Ratings were solid, but things went sideways when showrunner Bruce Helford allegedly quit over "creative differences with James," reported Deadline. The news was shocking, considering Helford had previously worked with notorious Hollywood bad boy Charlie Sheen on Anger Management and still managed to take that show all the way to syndication. How bad could James be? 

Are Kevin James' views on women a tad outdated?

In a piece about sexism in Hollywood, Salon noted that Kevin James is among the Hollywood actors who often star in projects that feature a fun-loving husband with a nagging or personality-less wife. He also tends to be paired with remarkably attractive actresses, which has made him the butt of several jokes by comedian Amy Schumer who, according to Variety, often compares his career as a stocky comedian to her own.

In James' defense, sexism in Hollywood has plagued the industry long before he became a star. However, he is the creative force behind Kevin Can Wait, which certainly hasn't helped flip the script. "All the sitcom tropes that feel like they should be a thing of the past are here," writes Jen Chaney for Vulture, "the gratuitous laugh track; the nagging, much hotter wife ... the man-boy husband who can't be bothered to rake leaves, pay attention to his kids' behavioral problems, or eat fewer than four burgers in one sitting; and dialogue that sounds like it came from a spec script written in the early '90s." 

Kevin James may use nepotism to get jobs for his brother

Kevin James has an older brother who goes by the name of Gary Valentine (neither bro uses their real last name of Knipfing). The two look a lot a like, and so do their IMDb pages. Valentine (above left) has landed a slew of roles in James' projects, including King of Queens and Kevin Can Wait, Here Comes the Boom, the Mall Cop franchise, and more. While it's convenient to be able to cast your real brother as your TV brother, as is the case with Kevin Can Wait, it appears James' starring roles are largely keeping Valentine in business. Nepotism isn't uncommon in Hollywood, but that doesn't make it cool.

Kevin James' flick with Adam Sandler made homosexuality a punchline

In 2007, Kevin James and Adam Sandler starred in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, a comedy about two New York City firefighters who pretend to be a married gay couple so James' character, a recent widower, can make sure his kids have access to his life insurance. (Valentine was in this one too, by the way.) The movie ends with a unifying message of respect that was enough for GLAAD to give it a pass, according to Entertainment Weekly. However, the organization did acknowledge what it referred to as the film's "expected stereotypes."

Years later, Uproxx called the movie "blatantly homophobic." According to writer Daniel Fienberg, "It'd be equally silly to deny that a goodly percentage of the 115 preceding minutes — Yes, this movie is obscenely long — are mostly about Kevin James and Adam Sandler's characters making it clear that in order for Chuck and Larry to do some silly thing involving life insurance, they have to lower themselves in the most humiliating way they can imagine, by pretending to be a gay couple." He says the movie projects that "Being gay is gross" and "Having people think you're gay is gross," along with the notion that "If you're gay, you can get ultra-close to hot women."

Though James has never publicly spoken out against the gay community, he apparently doesn't have an issue with making homosexuality a punchline.

Is Kevin James a jerk to fans?

Take these with a grain of a salt, but online chatter suggests Kevin James may not be so nice to the little guy. According to a commenter on a Reddit thread, the actor allegedly wouldn't let a waitress ask him for his drink order while at a restaurant in Connecticut. "You were told not to talk to me directly," he supposedly told the server. 

James seemed to directly refute a similar tabloid account during a 2017 visit to The Tonight Show. Citing a story that said he supposedly sends his assistant into restaurants ahead of him "to make sure that the waitstaff doesn't make eye contact with [him," James self-deprecatingly said, "Can we check the facts on this one? If there was ever ... honestly a situation where I needed someones undivided attention, it's gonna be when I'm ordering food at at restaurant, right?" Okay, so maybe he's got us there. 

But what about another commenters claim that when he got a chance to visit the King of Queens set, James refused to acknowledge him the entire time, even when they were standing right next to each other. Or yet another allegation from a commenter who worked at a car dealership near the set of Grown Ups, who claimed that all dealership employees were specifically told by management "not to even look" at James while he shopped there. Though this is all unsubstantiated scuttlebutt, it certainly doesn't paint a flattering picture of an actor who butters his bread playing a perplexed everyman.

The curious case of competing mall cops

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is the Casablanca of inept mall security guard comedies. It seems unlikely that multiple people would come up with an idea about a Segway-riding doofus, yet some clues suggest Kevin James might have stolen the idea from someone else.

According to The Wrap, lawyer and screenwriter Alfred Thomas Catalfo shopped a script called Mall Cop in the early 2000s. Like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Catalfo's story concerns a sad sack mall security guard who thwarts a robbery. Other similarities: both movies have scenes set in Victoria's Secret and the Rainforest Café. Catalfo said he sent his script to Happy Madison — the production company that wound up making Paul Blart. The latter was made from a script credited to James and Nick Bakay. 

A guy named Duke McBride, who told The Wrap that he worked on Paul Blart, claimed studio execs were "so shocked when they read the scripts side-by-side that that they immediately sent a Sony bigwig" to Catalfo "with an apology and a check to 'work it out' in typical Hollywood fashion." McBride said the film's title was "mysteriously switched to 'Untitled Kevin James Project'" for a while and alleged that James "looked pretty sheepish for a few days, too." McBride's version of events has not been confirmed by Catalfo, James, or the studio, so take it as you will.

Did Kevin James leave a project in an unprofessional way?

Kevin James made his name as a populist entertainer. His movies might be popular with large audiences, but they certainly haven't been critical darlings or championed by film aficionados. He's got a number of films that sit below 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, including The Dilemma, Pixels, Zookeeper, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and True Memoirs of an International Assassin – the latter earned the rare 0 percent rating. This man apparently who has no problem associating himself with stuff that some would consider objectively not-good, yet James also apparently has no problem trashing others' projects. 

While doing press for Kevin Can Wait in 2016, he revealed that he walked away from an in-the-works sitcom in 2013. "It was a rushed process," James said (via The Wrap). "It just felt a little desperate? I don't know, it felt weird." He took umbrage at how the show had a relatively small budget that didn't allow for exterior shots, nor did it have a studio audience like he was used to. "So we pulled away from it and I'm so glad I did." 

Quitting a project is one thing, but publicly whining about it is another.