The King of Spades
David Spade is the funniest man in America. Just not when anybody’s looking, apparently, and certainly not when the cameras are rolling. The guy can throw off one-liners and spit sarcasm like battery acid on late-night talk shows or during one minute Weekend Update segments, but put him in front of a Panasonic 35mm camera with a screenplay he spent two years working on and it’s like watching an MC at a summer camp talent show. I grew up watching Spade on Saturday Night Live, and he was a bit of a comedy idol of mine, as he proved you could be small, and scrawny, with hair like a gay blonde waterfall and still be successful, so long as you’re so bitter at the rest of the world you can make people laugh through incessant insults and increasingly hostile put-downs. And so, an idea for my own cultural contribution was born. I would hide behind a pseudonym and the anonymity of the internet, and devalue the artistic creations of talented filmmakers through pithy remarks about fat actresses and racial slurs, like Hollywood Minute, only it takes a good quarter-hour to get through one sentence and there’s significantly more glib references to pedophilia. Spade, on the other hand, took a less obvious route to stardom, abandoning the live setting of SNL for the lucrative and artistically rewarding world of long-running sequential commercial segments. Hell, it did wonders for the Dell computer guy, and I bet we’re all wondering how Sharon Maughan from that Taster’s Choice soap opera with the British guy is doing, when we’re not busy thinking of absolutely anything else. But before the glory of saying ‘No’ repeatedly in front of a Capital One Credit Card logo rocketed him to stardom, Spade found the time to star in a variety of ludicrously unfunny movies. And to his credit, they were firmly on track to dethrone Rob Schneinder as America’s king of uncomfortable silence, until Corky Romano came along and actually burst a critic’s eardrum in Tulsa, Oklahoma through the deafening sound of an entire theatre not laughing.
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star is the dull, painted jewel in the paper Burger King crown of Spade’s cinematic career. I will grant that there was great potential inherent in the premise, that of a child star fallen on hard times who must give himself a childhood in order to land a plum movie role, sort of like Billy Madison except the main character is insane, not retarded. But all the life seems to have been sucked out of the movie, and the void was filled not by comedy but by some variety of soul-crushing entity that feeds off of boredom and that shifty feeling you get in movie theatres when you want to check the time but the Indiglo feature died after you did the dishes with your watch on. It feels like a Disney movie that snuck its way up to a PG-13 rating; some sex jokes, a few mild cuss words, and a whole lot of potential dulled by a family friendly censor. I don’t understand why comic talent like David Spade, and to a great extent Chris Rock and other SNL alumni, get so completely watered down and lame once they leave the spontaneity of live TV and move up to film.
Remember her? Neither do I.
Actually, that’s not true. I know exactly why that is. It’s because studio execs think that funny is funny, and they don’t appreciate that there are different types of comedy. Stand-up comedy is a completely different animal than improv comedy, in that one is funny and one is miserably not, and they’re both different from written comedy, and even more so from film comedy. Just because you’re funny in one arena doesn’t mean you’ll succeed in another. This is why Kevin Smith movies suck, because his stuff is funny on paper, but just a maze of badly delivered, heavily over-written dialogue on screen, like Dennis Miller doing Monday Night Football color commentary. It’s also why Steve Carrell live is a lot like watching Aaron Brown interview an environmental lobbyist, and why nobody has ever seen a Joe Piscopo movie. It’s like assuming models can act just because they’re nice to look at, or that a video game would make a good movie, or that Hollywood Minute is worth watching for 90 minutes.