David Spade is letting it all hang out. The journeyman comedy actor and SNL legend is on the verge of publishing his memoir Almost Interesting, in which he shares personal memories of sexual snafus, drug addictions, and career struggles—all in the sneering goofball tone that's made him a comedy mainstay. From the 51-year-old's dirt-poor beginnings in bumfuck Arizona to the grind of stand-up to his happiest days on set with Chris Farley, Spade's book is the story of a guy who worked hard, messed up, got lucky, and never took any of it too seriously along the way.
While Almost Interesting looks back on plenty of tense, even harrowing moments (early on Spade muses "When your dad isn't there, you wonder what the fuck you did that was so bad to make him go"), it never gets too heavy for too long. This is a memoir that introduces itself as "200 pages of blood, sweat, and jizz"—prepare yourselves accordingly.
Spade will join his former Saturday Night Live cast member Colin Quinn at 92Y this weekend to discuss his new book, but Gothamist has already had a chance to grill him about his return to stand-up, his thoughts on modern-day SNL sketches, and the lessons one learns when you cross the line and piss off Eddie Murphy.
Do you watch the new seasons of SNL? How do you think it’s going?
Well, I’m sort of like the people that catch a sketch online Monday morning.
Well, now, do you think that that kind of viewing has had an effect on the writing or structure of the show?
Well, I don’t think it’s affecting that. It’s all a crapshoot of which ones are going to work that week. And since the beginning of time you get two or three that are funny and then the rest clank. And a smart thing they do is put their best one out Monday, and you rarely see the whole show. You go “God, this show is great” because that sketch is so funny. If we had that back then it would have tripled our notoriety. If you missed our show, you literally had to wait six months for the rerun. If you missed that, you hope your sketch is on the best-of, and then it’s gone. When they started re-running them on the E! Channel I said “Oh my God, I haven’t even seen half this shit!”
Take me back to your memories of being in New York at a time during the 90s golden era of SNL that you were a part of. What was the city like for you? What really sticks out on your mind?
Back then I lived on the Upper West Side because Andy and Katie, my brother and his wife, lived there. And that’s the only people I knew. And then Mike Meyers lived up there, I found out. Farley lived up there at the Bromley. I was on 84th and West End, and Kevin Nealon—a lot of people from the show were there. Slowly they all moved to the Village, and I stayed there because I’m a creature of habit. I liked it and the Upper West Side wasn’t bad. But it was still a hike to Midtown and I could take a subway. Back then you didn’t get a car service and I was too cheap to pay for one, so I would either walk all the fucking way to SNL or try to get a cab. Even on show day—I doubt they’d even let you do that now because you could easily miss half a day because you can’t get a cab or its snowing.
Did you have horror stories of almost missing call for a show?
Well, as egotistical as I am, or whatever the word is, I would walk there and go on the show with whatever my hair was. I didn’t want to be one of those guys that get all made up, and so my hair looks stupid on every show because no one would do it. And now, believe me, I’ve got a team going “Let me move these four hairs over here.”
Overall, I would go home between the breaks, because I’m not a New York guy at all. I really like visiting there, and running out of money in four days and then coming home. But to live there was very tough. I’m very impatient. It’s hard for me to deal with gridlock to go six blocks. I can’t deal with that and I freak out. I want to say I’m cool and I’d love to live in New York, but I do like Los Angeles a little more. I like my own car—and believe me I like Arizona better. I thought Los Angeles was crummy because when you go to Wendy’s to eat, you have like two parking spots to pick from. When you’re in New York there’s zero!
There seems to be this general sense of self-deprecation inundating your book. You’re taking side shots at yourself—you seem to have a very critical view of celebrity, even your own. Do you think that stuff gets taken too seriously?
Well, I think it’s a stupid business and I’m lucky to be here and am by no means some great actor. I think more people should think that, if that’s what you’re asking me. I’m not really as self-deprecating as I am sort of realistic. I also don’t take it so seriously when people say “You’re so great.”
You kind of know in your head—“Yeah I’m pretty good and I think I’m pretty good at my job most of the time,” but I don’t want to get caught up in that shit, because a year later everyone bails out. I’ve been around long enough to see it come and go, and people have their highs and lows. But I’m happy if I keep working and I still have to try. When I go on Jimmy Fallon I have to think of things to talk about. I can’t just walk out there and go “I’m so great, everything I say is funny.” It’s still work. I still study before I do a stand-up gig and give a crowd a decent show, because there’s 20 better stand-ups they can go and see.
Yeah, I was going to ask you more about stand-up. You’ve got a few dates scheduled, are you seeing yourself as more and more of a stand-up comedian?
Well, that’s sort of what got me here, and most stand-ups will tell you it’s the one place where you’re your own boss, and people can live or die just by their own jokes. I feel like in a movie, sometimes it’s not up to me to take the credit, or sometimes it’s really my fault. In a movie like Grown Ups, I just want to be funny with what I can control, and that’s just like my jokes and how I say them. The editing is up to someone else.
When I do stand-up, I still try to be good. I don’t want people to come and I just walk out for an hour and they’re just happy to see me. More so I want them to go “Fuck, he’s actually a great stand-up.” On another note, Sandler’s been saying he wants to get back into stand-up. He said “We just did this movie together, I want to go out on the road—let me come on some of your gigs.” We did one down here and I let him come on and have some time. We’re doing another one, now. We just booked a gig in San Diego—Me, him, Schneider and Schwartzman. That’ll be fun.
You should bring it to New York, for sure.
I would love it. He’s just wanting to get better and better. But this is what we used to do during Saturday Night Live—we’d go out and do gigs and tour colleges, and it was really fun.
Your book—you called it "200 pages of blood, sweat, and jizz." Can you describe the writing process for you? What was surprising about sitting down to dig all that stuff out of yourself?
Yeah. I’d thought about it during Just Shoot Me and there wasn’t enough to talk about, and then people started calling me about a book. Maybe because my show was off and I had free time. I’ve never really not been on a show, and so I said ‘Oh, It would be a big challenge to just write down some stuff,' and I didn’t want to ghostwriter, because I don’t want it not to sound like me. Stuff like “Blood, sweat and jizz” is when they call and go “And now we need this, and now we need something for the back cover.” And the say “Put something like “Your blood, sweat, and tears,” and I go “How about blood, sweat, and jizz?” And it’s that fast and I never think about it again, and then I saw it in the book and I go “Oh fuck, I did say that!”
And it makes me laugh, but it’s so dumb that it doesn’t matter. Overall, I’m happy.
I was going to ask you, have you seen any—it’s been kind of flying across the blogosphere I guess, in terms of your Eddie Murphy excerpt. Have you seen any of the posts about it or what people are saying? How does it feel?
You know, I don’t really know how to feel because I knew when the book was coming out…
I did the whole book, and then I don’t know what people will pick up on. The thing about it is people pick up on one thing. I knew Chris Farley was a topic that people would be interested in. I know that assistant that attacked me—people asked me a lot about that, which was just like a dumb thing. I tried to cover getting hazed in my fraternity—you just don’t know what some people will like and won’t.
The Eddie Murphy was thing, it’s like “Okay, that’s fine.” It’s probably because he just did an award show. They just asked “can we run the whole chapter?” and I said “I guess, I don’t know how it works, and I don’t mind it if people learn about the book.”
When was the last time you ran into Eddie?
I ran into him at the 40th Anniversary and he was cool. What I think happened is a small incident with an ok joke about him, but he was smart enough to see the big picture and realize that if a cool show says you’re not funny anymore, someone else can pick up on that and then, in a minute, everyone is saying “He’s not cool.”
I didn’t really picture that, but I think he got a whiff of that and said “Hey, this shit’s stopping right here,” and got really rough about it. But that’s fine. I treated it fairly in the book, I said “I get it and I see why you don’t like it.”
It sounds like it was “shit happens,” and you guys are cool about it now.
I was more flattering that he stayed mad about it. Because I thought “It’s so dumb!” But everyone’s different—I don’t like people making fun of me but he took it differently. I think he felt betrayed by Lorne and by the whole show in general.
What’s your relationship with Colin Quinn like?
Yeah, we're old buddies and we actually got to be better friends since the show.
How did that come about?
Well we were buddies there, and we stayed in touch. You don’t stay in touch with everyone, but he’s a very smart guy. I went to see his plays and I kept going “holy shit this guy knows what he’s doing.” It’s so thought-out and very well put together, and being a comedian you can spot good stuff. I was jealous thinking “Holy shit, this guy picks one subject and does a whole thing.” I can maybe do three jokes about one subject.
Would you want to do something like that?
No, too hard. Even doing a play for me would be hard. I don’t think I would be bad in a play, but I think the monotony would get to me, because I start to hate my act when I do three shows in a row.
The last thing I wanted to ask you about was the documentary about Chris that came out this year. What did you take away from the final product—have you seen it all the way through? What are your thoughts on it?
I’ve heard good things about it, I couldn’t really get myself to watch the whole thing. I heard it was well-received because it was more positive than negative.
And in terms of your part in it, being on camera, was that kind of cathartic, or was it really hard?
It was done because—I talk about him a little bit in my book, and it’s not my favorite thing to get in there and talk about him a lot, but it was his brother and his family and they asked me to do it and it’s always that hard decision because they want to do it, and I know I’m a piece of the puzzle that will throw it off and I don’t do it. Because then I don’t think Sandler’s going to do it, and I don’t think Lorne would do it. So I go “Alright I’ll do it,” and then the weird part is going in a room with three guys that are doing a documentary that I don’t know. So, I mean they probably want me to start breaking down crying, but it’s hard to really dig deep and just talk to a camera. If it was Adam in there and Lorne, and we’re all talking, then you can relate to someone and you’d laugh and cry, but to just dig in and talk straight to a camera is odd to me. They were like “Do you miss him?” and I go “Oh boy. These are trigger points to get me to go boo-hoo.” I don’t want to come off as cold, but it’s hard to just open up and be…
But there are stories of him in the book that I wrote and thought, “I guarantee no one’s heard this one.”