Stand-Up Sit-Down: Hal Sparks

“Hey guys, I’m here backstage doing an interview with NBC before the show,” Hal Sparks says as he flips his fancy web cam at me to start the interview.

Actor, musician, and stand-up comedian Hal Sparks graced the stage of the Arlington Improv, July 7 and was sharing the experience with his international fan base and committed Twitter followers every step of the way.

“This goes out all over the world. I have like 19,000 viewers in 20 different countries. People in Sweden, Paris, Brazil. And someone from Sweden is in the chat and just said ‘yay Stockholm,” Sparks said.

The audience in the showroom was also watching as they waited anxiously for the show to begin.

Only moments into the interview a petite blond with trendy eye-wear and her hair tied back in a ponytail came in.

“Ladies and Gentleman, Miss Rachael Harris is joining us.” Sparks said.

Actress Rachel Harris, recently seen in “The Hangover,” made a stop here in Dallas to film an episode of “The Good Guys” starring Colin Hanks. This is Harris’s first time in Dallas. She felt right at home with Sparks who she’s known for years.

“Hal reminds me a lot of George Carlin. He doesn’t have to rely on sick jokes. His comedy is very smart. He has a very interesting point of view.” Harris said.

Sparks’s upbringing, like his comedy, was anything but conventional. He grew up without a television until age 15 with the closest TV a mile away.

“I grew up listening to comedy records and old radio. So I had an upbringing that’s probably closer to Woody Allen than that of my modern comedic contemporaries.” Sparks said.

He got discovered at the age of 17 by winning the “Funniest Teenager in Chicago” contest.

“My dad would ground me so I couldn’t do stand-up -- he didn’t want me doing it at all. What he didn’t like is that I would stay downtown. He would ground me so that after class, I’d have to come home and the way he would keep me from going out is he’d give me five bucks, knowing that it was a buck twenty-five to get downtown and a buck twenty-five on the way back, and like two fifty for food, so there was a very tight range on this thing.” Sparks said.

From the moment Sparks discovered you could do comedy as a career, he knew he had found his calling. Soon after his discovery he packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles. His most noted works now include a series of VH1 specials (the I Love the... series), “Dude, Where’s My Car?”, "Talk Soup," and “Queer as Folk.” 

He still remembers the moment he lost his anonymity and became a “star."

“I did a week of Talk Soup, stepped out onto the third street promenade and a guy walks up to me, smacks my chest and says ‘Hey, Talk Soup Guy!’ and that was it -- that was my introduction to fame,” Sparks said.

Who says a comic can't also be an actor and a rock star? Sparks showed us that there's no limits on what he can do -- his metal band, “Zero 1,” will release a new album in September with the single “American Psycho.”

“As an American, we actually do more damage than an actual psychopath. A psychopath will kill like 7-10 people. But through our consumption and political stuff going on we end up killing like 20 people and we do it passively. It's about really confronting the damage you do,” Sparks said.

In addition to his new music album, Sparks also has a comedy special currently airing on Showtime entitled “Charmageddon.”

“Laughter is job one; Philosophy is job two. A comedian needs to be relevant, but that comes secondary to being funny and having a good time. That’s where 'Charmageddon' comes from for my special. How do you get pieces and bits that shake up peoples lives without being mean and ruining their afternoon,” Sparks said.

Since the airing of this special, Sparks feels that a new set of material is the best way to go.

 “When I’m on the road, almost all the material is brand new. I mean, some of the material I did for the first time last night on stage in Addison, so it’s an adventure,” Sparks said.

When asked about his opinion about “Last Comic Standing” (which we recap each Tuesday ), Sparks made it clear that he is not a fan.  

“The show is bullsh--. I think it’s a sham. First of all, the guys who judge it and coach it couldn’t put a full hour together to save their lives; some of the worst stand-ups I’ve ever seen. Occasionally, they’ll roll someone through like Greg Giraldo. But they usually don’t stay. And some of the people who are going through it have been around forever and deserve a lot of credit for that and should have a special and stop having to jump through hoops for idiots on a dumb reality show. And other people on there have a great ten minutes, but when you go see them live, that’s it.”

Out of all this hats, Sparks feels that stand-up fits him the best.

“I think stand-up is my favorite job. That live response from everybody and connection. And I’m not pandering just because you guys are out there” he said to the on-looking live audience and web community.

For up to the minute access to Hal Sparks, click here.

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