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Calling A Spade Funny

David Spade Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

David Spade Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

He spent a lot of time in Hawaii while growing up, and now David Spade makes his first stage appearance here New Year’s Eve in a comedy triple-shot that includes Bill Maher and Jeff Ross

Rare is the sleepy suburb that spawns both a fashion mogul and a movie/TV star, but it is unprecedented in recent memory for both to come from the same household.

Yet such is the case for a struggling single mother from Scottsdale, Arizona, named Judith Spade. Her elder son Andy married Katherine Brosnahan, and together they took the handbag world by storm and became Kate Spade New York. Her youngest son, David, lacked the charm and fashion sense of his elder sibling, but he came armed with the only weapon an undersized boy can have in school: his wit.

He rode this snarky, under-his-breath humor all the way to the hallowed halls of Saturday Night Live, where he connected with such American humor heavyweights as Chris Rock, Dennis Miller and most famously with the oversized funnyman himself, Chris Farley.

Their first movie together, Tommy Boy, became an instant classic because of the way it captured the interaction between the sharp-witted yet insecure Spade and the lovable oaf Farley, who could summon peals of laughter just by the way he donned a coat.

The details of Spade’s rise to fame, where he continued a run playing the snide, sex-hungry character he debuted in Just Shoot Me in 1997 through 8 Simple Rules (2004-05) and Rules of Engagement (2007-13), are laid out in his new book, Almost Interesting: The Memoir, that debuted at No. 10 on the New York Times humor best-seller list.

“That is exciting for me. I squeaked onto the New York Times best-seller top 10 list at No 10, and I am holding there for dear life,” says Spade, who notes there are four “chicks” ahead of him on the list (actually there are three: Mindy Kaling has two books ahead of his). “It just shows me that girl comedians are funnier than me and write better than me.”

His success with the book and with his humor in general comes from his understated delivery, which he brought out when he read the book for the audio version.

“But, as I am learning, audio does not count for book sales,” says Spade. “Everyone I talked to says they got the audio because I read it. They are, like, ‘It’s so funny; you read it.’ I am, like, well, I love it too, but I wish they would count it. But things could be worse. I got into the top 10.”

The book title captures his self-denigrating humor, but there was a title even more demeaning that he actually preferred.

“I did, like, the title My Life as a Six because a girl told me I was a six once and it bummed me out,” says Spade, a career bachelor who has dated starlets including Heather Locklear and Laura Flynn Boyle, and has a child with Playboy Playmate Jillian Grace. “Then she told me, ‘You think that’s bad for you. I’m with you.’ It was a date that didn’t go well.”

Such observations of life are staples in his stand-up act, where he began his career in comedy and where now, after a two-decade run on TV, he can refocus his energies. He will take the stage on New Year’s Eve at Blaisdell Concert Hall with Jeff Ross and headliner Bill Maher.

“When they suggested this crazy lineup, I thought it sounded like a blast,” says Spade, who has been buddies with Maher and Ross for years but never performed with either. “These guys are both funny, they are both cool and we are all coming out together. It sounds like a crackup.”

The lineup does cover the spectrum, with Ross known for his no-holds-barred approach, Maher for his un-flinching take on the day’s politics, and Spade, who talks about everyday stuff like traveling, Instagram and his reliance on his phone.
“Bill’s got his audience, Jeff has his and I have mine — I think it’s sorta good for the crowd to get a triple-shot like that,” says Spade, who used to spend time in Hawaii as a kid. “I know all the terms: body surf, Sandy Beach, blow holes, shaka, weed — we would come out there when I was 15 and get stoned and surf Sandy’s. It was fun.”

One component that Ross and Spade do share is their delight in skewering celebrities. Ross hosts his roasts on Comedy Central, covering everyone from David Hasselhoff to Justin Bieber to William Shatner, and Spade first broke into the national spotlight with his “Hollywood Minute” segment on SNL.

“When I did Hollywood Minute, at least no one was doing it back when there was only People magazine, which is very positive and upbeat,” says Spade, who claims the idea came from him sitting around the set of SNL and making fun of what he was reading in People. “It was fun to watch someone you didn’t really know and say, ‘Who are these a-holes?’ Then everyone started to do it, then came the shows and talk shows.”

The little two-minute segment has spawned an industry, with networks being based on mocking and catching the famous being stupid, but does Spade feel like the grilling of celebrities has gone too far?

“I definitely think that some celebrities have it coming, some of the things the Kardashians do still baffle me, but it is just a different world, where people aren’t as cool and everyone is more thirsty (for fame), and it is getting more and more OK to be thirsty,” says Spade. “When you make desperate moves or post desperate pictures, people are eating it up, rather than saying, ‘What are you doing? Who does this?’ I guess I am old school, aka just old. It is hard to watch.”

What is not hard to watch is Spade’s appearances on talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, where he keeps the host and the crowd in stitches with his stories about his life, but Spade insists they are not as spontaneous as they appear.

“Most people probably think that everyone on a talk show is just talking off the top of their head, and there is a little of that, but every guest on there has been screened, and had their stories organized and rated according to funniness,” says Spade. “They know 80 percent of what is going to go on when they go out there. I know I am telling everyone there is no Santa Claus with this story because a lot of people are, like, ‘Wait, what? Jennifer Garner didn’t just make up that story about her kid at the playground?’ The worst is when the stories are bad, and you thought that one ahead and it still sucked that bad.

“To go back-and-forth with someone and work in stories, they are subtler jokes, they are jokes that probably don’t work in your stand-up because they are too story-like. But in a talk-show format, you have the element of surprise. You can really get a laugh out of that. If it was in your standup, it would be a C+ joke, but on a talk show it comes out pretty funny because you are just blabbing a story out of nowhere.”

With his book finished now, Spade is looking to get back into television, but he wants to do it on his own terms.

“It is still hard to get a show, and you have to be careful because you want to get one that has the best chance of staying on the air,” he says. “I hope to do another show. I love doing them and I could be good at them, but I wanted to do one that is a little rough around the edges — and I wanted to have a hand in the writing, and it is hard to sync all that up.”

Another aspect he would like to see change is the womanizing character he always plays.

“I am really a major De Niro these days. Here is my range of acting: smarmy skirt chaser to smarmy dress chaser,” says Spade with a laugh. “That is the big range. I am always hitting on girls in everything, but in real life I am a little quieter, but in these shows I am all over it.”

In an effort to depart from his typecast, he plays a married father with two stepkids in a new buddy-action movie with Adam Sandler called The Do-Over, scheduled to release this summer on Netflix. In it Sandler plays the crazy partner to Spade’s sedate, family man, in a movie that Spade compares to the 1988 De Niro/Grodin film Midnight Run.

But even with such efforts, fans still are going to believe that Spade is the sex-starved guy they know from their favorite shows, not the quiet guy he is in real life.

“I met girls in Vegas in the meet-and-greet line, and they told me I was their freebie and I was like, OK.” says Spade. “Then they were, like, ‘No, you are my freebie tonight. Do you know what that means?’ And I was, like, yeah, but do I get a vote? Because if I do, it is a hard pass on my end, but they can’t imagine that I wouldn’t want to have sex with them because they have seen my character on all these shows.”

An Evening of Comedy with Bill Maher, David Spade and Jeff Ross: Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Blaisdell Concert Hall and Jan. 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Maui Arts and Cultural Center. Tickets: $45.50-$95.50 at Ticketmaster or at Blaisdell Box Office.