Tim Meadows grabs his youngest son, hoists him in the air, swings him and brings him down to his lap.
Delighted, Julian buries his face into dad's chest and bursts into a fit of giggles.
Earlier this afternoon, Meadows, a part-time Chicago resident, picked up 5-year-old Julian and 7-year-old Isaiah from school and brought them back to the place where Meadows got his education more than 20 years ago.
Not that this is unfamiliar territory to the twosome. They attend school not too far from the hallowed halls of Second City, where
Meadows, 47, migrated from Detroit's east side in the mid-1980s, hoping to capitalize on an itch he had to make people laugh.
Since then, his comedy career has seen some notable success — after a five-year stint he left Chicago for what became a 10-year run on "Saturday Night Live" and he's had memorable roles in feature films such as "Mean Girls" and the recent "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."
The second season of the TBS series "The Bill Engvall Show" began June 12. Meadows co-stars as the best-friend sidekick to Engvall's therapist. Engvall's character is working to mirror in his own home life the advice he issues.
Doing the show made sense for Meadows. He related to his character, Paul DuFrayne, because they were both at the same stations in life — newly single men re-entering the social scene.
"I was frustrated," Meadows says, explaining why he related to this part. "Trying to be on the singles scene again and dating and realizing that things have changed since you've been out there, you know? And the frustration of dealing with former or past relationships. It was the same thing that was going on with me in my own personal life. So I thought, yeah, it'll be cool to do this."
Still, despite the aftermath of divorce, Meadows has found plenty of reasons to smile.
The TV show is a top-rated hit for TBS and his colleagues say that what he does is pure comedic genius.
"Any time I open a script and I see a scene with Bill and Paul, I just start laughing. He's such a treat to work with and he's so funny. You know you've got the genuine article," Engvall says. "When Tim gets a script and there's a scene in it, I call that the cake and then Tim just decorates ... it. I literally have sores in my mouth from biting my lip because I can't laugh."
Of course, what Meadows is really doing, he says, is just going back in time to when he was an ace at improvisation and had to capture a live audience immediately or risk losing them altogether. That's where he feels most comfortable, he says.
"I'm an improviser and that's my bread and butter," he says. "Coming from this place, Second City and 'SNL,' you sort of become snobby about comedy. One of the things that I sort of try to do, is I try not to do the same sort of sitcom stuff that you've seen before. Sometimes you can be watching 'How I Met Your Mother' and it'll be the same type of joke that you've seen on 'Friends' said the same way. Rhythm and everything. I try to do it differently. I try not to sound like the Catskills comic. I try not to sound like the writers that are writing the jokes. I try to make it sound like I'm an actual person who happens to say these things that are funny."
And he does a pretty good job of cracking up the people he works with on the set of his show.
"He's just so naturally funny," says co-star Nancy Travis. "Even just the way he says 'Bill' is so funny to me. He's great to have on a set. He's lovely to talk to and just a very sensitive, but innately funny man."
Being funny has been his meal ticket, to be sure. But on the horizon is a shift in what he's offered thus far. Next up is a role in "They Came From Upstairs," a sci-fi adventure flick that centers around an alien invasion and hits theaters early next year. The film also stars Ashley Tisdale ("High School Musical") and Doris Roberts ("Everybody Loves Raymond").
"If I could have a career like somebody, I'd want a career like Bill Murray's, where you get to do big and small, and you don't have to carry projects. But you are one of the people that people come to see. You can do comedy, you can do drama, you can do big budget or low budget. Or like a Will Smith, where you can do comedy, action, romance, historical pictures, whatever," Meadows says. "But that being said, I'm OK with where I'm at. I like the work that I get to do. I like the people I get to work with. I'm not ashamed of stuff that I've done. I'm OK."