Even if you don’t know his name, the second you see Hal Sparks you think, “Hey, I know that guy.” Sparks might have one of the most varied resumes in Hollywood. He’s hosted Talk Soup, starred in Queer As Folk, had memorable roles in Dude, Where’s My Car and Spiderman 2, was featured on VH1’s I Love the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and is currently starring in Disney’s Lab Rats, oh and he’s also been on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News to discuss various political issues. That’s not even all his credits, there are too many to list (I don’t get paid by the word you know). This weekend Sparks brings his standup act to Laugh Boston, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with him.
Hal Sparks burst onto the national scene in 1999 as the host of Talk Soup. A year later he starred in Showtime’s groundbreaking hit Queer as Folk as Michael Novotny. Queer as Folk was the first American drama to focus on the lives of gay men and women, it was quite an iconic role and people on the street still call him Michael. Such a role can be a double-edged sword, it brings fame but it can be tough to move past it. After wrapping up Queer as Folk, Sparks knew he had to get in front of the American public as himself. “I gotta get people to know my name or I’m screwed. I am my brand, I can’t be my show, ever.” This thinking is what led him to do the incredibly successful “I Love the” series for VH1; he knew people watching would see his name on the screen every time they showed his face. Sparks didn’t stop at VH1; he was everywhere, for reals. “Ubiquity was my tool of choice to get known in the industry. If you don’t know anyone in the business you need to break through and the main one I used was ubiquity, be everywhere.”
So Sparks has been everywhere the past twenty-five years, and this weekend he’s right in our own backyard. So what does one expect from a comedian who has played so many different roles? When talking about his act Sparks says, “Right now I’m talking about the future because I find that by making jokes about where we’re headed as a culture I have less overlap with other comedians. The vast majority of my set is future tech, someone called it a TED talk with dick jokes.” Sounds like my kind of act.
Sparks thinks a lot about his audience when putting a tour together, probably more than the average road comic. He expects a certain amount of “intellectual continuity” in his audience, and his act reflects that. He wants his audience to not only laugh (duh) but also push the limits of their comfort zone, and hopefully walk away talking. Ideally, he’s like his audience members discussing what he joked about on stage after the show. He feels humor is for debugging social structures, and does his part to show the kinks in society. When he was at Second City he was taught to always assume the audience is smarter than him, which though not always true, has made him a more intelligent comic, with an intelligent, diverse following. His following is so diverse that he brings is own opening comedians on the road with him after a few comedians were less than respectful. “I need to know that my audience isn’t going to be insulted by some sort of random sexist or homophobic kind of comic.” And don’t worry Southie, he told me we’re included under the umbrella, so no cheap drunk Irish jokes!
If you want to see a TED talk with dick jokes (again his words, not mine) hop on the number seven and head over to Laugh Boston. Tell them Caught In Southie sent you and tweet us your pics! For more information or buy tickets visit: http://laughboston.com/