By Jason Tanamor
“I would populate the world with a bunch of illegitimate kids. Either that or be a very expensive teacher,” Hal Sparks said. This is what Sparks, best known for his role on Showtime’s ‘Queer As Folk,’ and VH1's ‘I love the...’ series’, says he would be doing if stand-up comedy and acting didn’t work out for him.
Sparks, a Kentucky native who spent a lot of time in Chicago, started doing stand-up comedy at the very young age of 15, something he says he’s always wanted to do. “I probably first decided to do comedy when I found myself reciting Steve Martin’s “Wild and Crazy Guy” routine at the kitchen table,” said Sparks. “I watched family members laugh, my mom and grandma, while my grandpa sat there mortified.”
This led to a part in the famed comedy troupe Second City, in which his performances landed him the title of “Funniest Teenager In Chicago,” by the Chicago Sun Times. “I grew up in Kentucky where movies were the window to the rest of world. It made me want to get out of where I was,” said Sparks. “It seemed natural to me to imitate what I saw.”
After a few years in Chicago, Sparks shipped out west to Los Angeles to perform at comedy clubs such as The Improv, The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory and The Ice House. He also participated at Comic Relief’s American Comedy Festival.
Since that time, Sparks has come up with a very animated stand-up act. “It’s very theatrical what I do. I don’t just walk back and forth with the mike hoping people will find what I say is funny,” Sparks said. “I’m a big KISS fan so I tend to jump around the stage a lot.”
But even though people have seen Sparks in a slew of movies and on television, it doesn’t mean his life has always been smooth sailing. What particular night jumps out at him. “I opened for The Bee Gees on Dec. 31, 1999. I did a bit on A.A., saying they should change the name because it’s not anonymous. The first thing people say to you is their name,” said Sparks. “What I didn’t know at the time was one of the Gibbs was the poster boy for A.A. He’s the one that died.”
All in all, however, Sparks’ career has been hitting on all cylinders since stand-up began paying the bills. He attributes a lot of his success to his material and how he prepares for each show. “I like to do prepared material on stage. The writing comes pretty easy, it comes without your permission. Sometimes I’ll just start saying, ‘I need a pen,’” said Sparks. “People can learn the nuts and bolts of stand-up comedy. But to be original and be funny and to come up with a huge idea that makes sense to everybody, that’s something that can’t be taught.”
Sparks’ other credits include ‘Spider-Man 2,’ ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?,’ ‘Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star’ ‘Dr. Dolittle 2,’ and was also the host of E’s ‘Talk Soup.’
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."
By Jason Tanamor