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'AND HE IS . . .?' : David Spade May Be a Young Hipster, but Outside of 'Saturday Night Live' He Tries to Never Be Too Cool for the Room

March 05, 1992|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who covers comedy regularly for O.C. Live!

Anyone who watched the recent "Saturday Night Live" show hosted by Roseanne Arnold saw David Spade do his male receptionist. The "Saturday Night" cast member, who's headlining at the Irvine Improv through Sunday, calls it "the character we love to hate."

"The whole idea is someone working for someone in a power position who takes on that power even though they're making minimum wage," explains Spade, whose "receptionist" works for Dick Clark Productions in a high-rise office festooned with gold records. "Basically, anyone who comes in to see Dick Clark, I won't let them in. I grill them with condescending questions like:

" 'And you are? . . .

" 'This is regarding? . . .

" 'And he knows you through. . .?'

"When you have to fill in the blank it's so sickening."

Not even TV's No. 1 one sitcom star is immune to Spade's receptionist. In the sketch, Roseanne mistakenly tried to walk straight into Clark's office.

"Uh, uh, uh," said the receptionist. "Hi! . . . Hello! Can I help you?"

"Oh, hi," Roseanne said, stepping over to his desk. "I'm here to see Dick."

"OK . . . And you are . . . ?"

"Are you kidding?" responded the sitcom queen, who was then forced to explain that she is the star of her own TV show, "like Bill Cosby."

"I'm sorry," said the receptionist. "And he knows you through . . . ?"

The sketch, which Spade wrote and also has performed with guest-host Hammer, grew out of a routine he does in his stand-up act.

"I run into it all the time," said Spade, 27. "It's like they know they can keep you from that person so they give you a hard time, and pretending not to know celebrities is the funniest thing. But it doesn't even have to be with a famous person. It's like I could get my car worked on and get the same power-hungry people:

"Oh, is the head mechanic here?

"And you are . . . ?"

The boyish-looking comedian, whose dead-on impressions of Michael J. Fox and Tom Petty have also been showcased on "Saturday Night Live," was speaking by phone last week from his home in New York.

Spade, who is in his second full season on the show, said he and his "Saturday Night Live" colleagues were on a "much deserved" two-week vacation. "It's a lot of hours, a lot of headaches and a lot of stress," he said.

Although he was originally hired as a writer-performer, Spade said, he was "bumped up" to performer status after his first 24 shows. He's no longer on the writing staff, but like other cast members he continues to do some writing for the show--such as his receptionist sketches and occasional commentaries for the Weekend Update segment.

His memorable Fox and Petty impressions aside, Spade says that as a stand-up comic he's best described as a monologuist.

"It's mostly just me talking, just me locking into a certain attitude, telling stories," he said. "It's not even so much jokes, it's more personality-driven material: You have to buy me. It's 50% sales and 50% material. That's the kind of performance I like to watch: something that's only funny when that person does it."

A 1990 Drama-Logue profile described the on-stage Spade as "the consummate young hipster: cool, casual, cocky and appropriately self-mocking."

"It's probably evolved a little since then," said Spade. "I don't think that it's cocky. It is kind of a young hipster, just kind of basically my point of view when I'm out there with everybody, just commenting on everything that happens to me in life--hopefully things they can relate to--and actually making fun of myself pretty much. I don't ever want them to think I'm too cool for the room."

In his act, Spade said, "I talk about music, my growing up, what it's like to live in 1992, girls with 'scrunchies' in their hair--those little things they put their hair up with. . . . It's just stupid things like that I make into three-minute stories."

Spade observes in his act, for example, that "everyone is moving to L.A. from Arizona," something he did at 21: "I quickly realized everyone has a limousine and they all think they're so cool. Every time I see a limo I say, 'Oooh, you have $80.' "

He also has noticed that "whenever you get on a plane, right away flight attendants will tell you the name of the pilot. Like anyone says, 'Oh, he's good. I love his work.' "

Spade was 18 and attending Scottsdale Community College when, "just for fun," he appeared at a local comedy club on amateur night.

"I'd seen someone do it live and I couldn't believe how hard it looked: He was so quick on his feet and so great," recalled Spade. "I wasn't really the class clown. I thought I was somewhat amusing." His first time on stage, he said, "was just brutal. I was no good at all. I don't know why, but I'd do it now and then. Then the material started to flow once I started to do it."

His appearance on an HBO Young Comedians Special was brought to the attention of "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels who, after meeting and auditioning Spade, offered him a job.

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