To David Spade, stand-up comedy is no laughing matter.
The former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and star of several movies and two long-running television sitcoms spoke thoughtfully during a recent phone interview with Best Bets about his upcoming appearances, which included a Feb. 28 spot on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Spade also will headline at 8 p.m. March 3 in the Silver Legacy Resort Casino’s Grande Exposition Hall.
“I take it seriously,” Spade said about performing live. “You have to bring it every time. You can’t walk through it. Even when I do ‘Ellen’ next week, I will think about it all week. I want to make sure I’m funny and that people want me to come back.”
It might seem odd that Spade, who counts fellow comedians Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Nick Swardson, Ray Romano, Dennis Miller and Rob Schneider as some of his closest friends, would admit to getting nervous before shows.
It’s not from a lack of confidence, he said, but rather the desire to put on the best show possible.
“I’m definitely an acquired taste,” he said. “I know this. There are people who do not think that I’m funny at all and they let me know about it every day on Twitter. And bless their hearts: The haters, they take no days off.”
Let the haters hate
However, Spade’s fans far outnumber the haters, even if Twitter might suggest otherwise. Spade’s career, while not reaching the super-heights of say a Chris Rock, has kept the 52-year-old very active and in the mainstream spotlight since he joined “Saturday Night Live” in 1990.
Born in 1964 in Birmingham, Michigan, Spade stayed with the late-night sketch-comedy show through 1996, before leaving to pursue other projects. He starred as Dennis Finch in the NBC sitcom “Just Shoot Me” from 1997 to 2002, a span of seven seasons and 148 episodes. Spade appeared for one season on the ABC sitcom “8 Simple Rules” before starring as Russell Dunbar from 2007-13 on the CBS sitcom, “Rules of Engagement.”
He’s also starred and co-starred in a slew of movies, including “Tommy Boy” (1995); “Black Sheep” (1996); “Joe Dirt” (2001); “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” (2003); “Grown Ups” (2010); and “Grown Ups 2” (2013), to name a few.
This proliferation of work is what’s kept Spade from performing stand-up as much as many of his contemporary peers.
“I’m usually on a TV show and not a full-time comedian changing my act every day,” he said. “That’s made it very tough to practice my act and to be a good comedian, you have to do it a lot. And I love doing it. It’s just very hard and I don’t want to rip people off. I want it to be good. I don’t think it’s fair to charge a road price and then work on a new hour because that’s not what people are paying for.”
‘My Fake Problems’
Spade’s last comedy special, “My Fake Problems,” was released in 2014 on Comedy Central. Spade, whose humor swells with sarcasm and self-deprecation, will use some of the bits from that special during his upcoming live shows.
“You don’t want to be like Journey, finally stumble onto (the song) ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and then get rid of it,” he said. “There are bits that I think are pretty funny and I want to add to them and make them longer and switch them a bit. I don’t like to just throw away my act, especially when you finally get stuff that works, you know what I mean? So, there’s still some stuff from ‘My Fake Problems’ and a lot of new stuff and then that will ultimately be another special.”
Spade makes himself vulnerable and transparent on stage, which are two of his strongest attributes as a stand-up comedian.
“I’m sort of the every man,” he said. “I guess anyone can say that, but I’m not too good looking so I’m not that threatening. I’m not super tall — we’re going to call it that — and I’ve a slight underdog quality because obviously, I’ve been bullied my whole life. But if I can think of clever jokes. ...”
While Spade doesn’t describe his stand-up comedy as family friendly — he won’t let his 8-year-old daughter, Harper, see his show — he said it’s tame by many other comedians’ standards.
“There’s an F-bomb here and there, but my jokes aren’t that dirty because, after being on TV for so many shows and so many years, people aren’t expecting to see an R-rated show,” he said. “My humor is PG-13 bordering on R, but if I get into the Triple-R stuff, I can feel the crowd tightening up.”
Spade admits he can feel himself tighten up a bit when he watches bits from his reality TV show, “Fameless,” which appears on TruTV. The show attracts people who want to become famous by offering them a role in a show they believe is real, but is actually part of a “Fameless” prank.
Spade has a cast of people who come up with pranks and then execute them on the unsuspecting victims. Spade has appeared on a few episodes, but mostly lets his cast do the work.
“Pranks are hard for me,” he said. “I don’t like to be involved with them. They scare me. I can watch them, but I tend to cringe. We were going to call it ‘Cringe Time’ at one point because I often feel badly, but no one else feels that way. Everyone else just says I’m a baby. But it’s not mean-spirited and it is funny, so we’re going with it.”
“Fameless” has been successful enough that Spade is now an executive producer on “Chris Webber’s Full Court Pranks,” which debuted Feb. 27 on TruTV. Webber is a former NBA player and the show features athletes playing pranks on unsuspecting fans.
The final word
Unlike Rock, who recently said that he’s returned to the stage to help with his alimony payments, Spade’s return is predicated by something more internal and less material.
“I just love doing it,” he said. “I don’t want to be one of those people who can’t wait to retire. I like thinking of stuff and coming up with jokes and seeing if I can make it work. It’s really the last place where you can think of an idea, say it however you want and live or die by it. That’s as good as it gets.”