Spade in Full

"I'm a true dirtball," says David Spade, and visiting his home state of Arizona allows him "to get back to my dirtball roots." As if to prove his assertion, he does "an impression of me on a date: 'Come on, chug it!'" That was Spade in high school; he's only a little smoother now. Asked by a more recent date "'How come I always catch you looking at slutty-looking girls with big boobs,'" he replies: "'Are you serious? That girl was wearing pink. Pink draws the eye--that's basic optometry, hon, surprised you didn't know that.'"
Spade offers other scientific insights during his HBO "'Round Midnight" special David Spade: Take the Hit, a distillation of his weekend of concerts this past February at Tempe Improv. Have you ever wondered, for instance, what a pet tarantula thinks when a small-potatoes dope dealer is trying to get him high on cheap grass? If you believe Spade, he's thinking: "I can't believe I should be in the desert, and I'm on this loser's lime-green bean-bag chair; he's blowing these shit-weed hits in my face, I'm not even high; meanwhile, he's stoned off his ass like a lightweight, and he's a dealer, no less."

Spade is best known as the mocking sidekick for his fellow SNL alumnus, the late Chris Farley, in the films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, and as the hippest character on NBC's Just Shoot Me. The surgical snottiness of his delivery is akin, in style, to Dennis Miller's, but it's far less intellectual in content, and it's touched with a streak of squirrely, amused self-loathing.

Spade's Just Shoot Me co-stars George Segal and the brittle Wendie Malick were in the crowd for the Improv show (Segal's is the distinctive laugh that eventually cracks up Spade). The comic spends much of his stage time needling his home turf, which he claims he hasn't visited since he came for "the Melanoma Festival." He describes his joy, at an Eagles concert, over the group's weary shtick of inserting local landmarks into "Hotel California." He talks about the quest for shade to park his car, the unenthusiastic animals at the Phoenix Zoo and the dregs of humanity at the Arizona State Fair. He takes jabs at his hotel accommodations: "A bit of a shithole . . . the first seven floors are a homeless shelter. But I'm on eight." The show's credits say that the accommodations were at Tempe Mission Palms, though it's unlikely it'll be putting the plug in its brochure.

Spade rambles over a wide variety of subjects, from standup standards like pornography and dating and the rigors of air travel to a phenomenal riff about his failure to grasp that the members of the band Queen were gay in spite of ample clues--"First of all, name's Queen"--and a killer routine about his grandmother's response to Brad Pitt. He does achingly dead-on impressions of a fax machine, a tire gun and, best of all, a city bus stopping outside his hotel at 6 a.m.

Cut from the TV edition was a lengthy, riotous yarn about Spade's childhood in Casa Grande--his mom dropping off him and his brother at an abandoned cotton gin to play on the mounds of seed husks, despite two kids having died there. ("Everybody has their time," Spade claims his mother said. "You can't outrun the Grim Reaper.") The HBO version does, however, include a story about a grade school gift from his mother that's almost as poignant as it is funny, and more so because it's told with absolutely no pretension to poignancy.

And in what may be a standup-comedy first, Spade even makes a couple of JonBenet jokes, which I thought might not make it into the TV cut (they did). So maybe he is a dirtball--but like a lot of dirtballs, he's hilarious and perversely lovable. And, if nothing else, he's our dirtball.

--M. V. Moorhead

The "'Round Midnight" Special David Spade: Take the Hit premieres at 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, on HBO. Subsequent playdates are 3:35 a.m. Monday, April 20; 11 p.m. Wednesday, April 22; 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 28; and 2 a.m. Thursday, April 30.


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