Painting the corners: Hal Sparks hits Helium - INTERVIEW
blog by BuffaloDotCom • December 27, 2013 @ 11:28am
Actor and comedian Hal Sparks began his professional career as a teenager in Chicago when he was named “Funniest Teenager in Chicago” by the Chicago Sun Times.
After a successful run with Second City, Sparks moved to Los Angeles and began performing at various comedy clubs.
From 1999 to 2000, Sparks was the host of the Emmy Award-winning “Talk Soup” on E! Entertainment Television. For five seasons, Sparks co-starred as Michael on the hit Showtime series “Queer As Folk” based on the British series.
His television credits include guest-starring roles on “CSI,” “Frasier” and “One on One”.
He also co-starred with Peter Reigert, Wayne Knight and Brad Garrett in the Showtime Original “Bleacher Bums,” adapted from the critically-acclaimed play of the same name. In 2004, Sparks appeared in the box office hit “Spiderman 2” and can be currently seen on Disney XD’s “Lab Rats”.
Sparks also has studied martial arts since he was 8 years old and holds belts in karate, Tae Kwon Do, and several forms of Kung Fu, including Wushu.
He will perform two shows each on Friday and Saturday nights at Helium—7:30 p.m. and 10—and tickets range from $20 to $27. You can purchase them here through Helium’s website.
Jason Pomietlasz: You started performing pretty young. Where do you think that came from when most of your peers were probably mostly concerned with going to the mall and hanging out?
Hal Sparks: I had a very old upbringing. I was just doing what I enjoyed doing. I wasn’t thinking about performing as a future vocation. I didn’t know that it could be a job. I was just having fun.
My dad had a bunch of comedy albums that I would listen to and that’s where I got my inspiration from. If I got into trouble, my father would ground me from performing. So other kids were sneaking out to parties and I was sneaking out to go do comedy.
JP: What albums were they?
HS: Lenny Bruce, Shelly Berman, George Carlin, Dean Martin, George Burns. I listened to them so much, that’s probably why I don’t have an accent. I grew up in Kentucky until I was 14 before I moved to Chicago.
JP: You started hosting “Talk Soup” in 1999—did you think that reality TV would be as popular as it is today?
HS: Reality TV is IKEA. It’s easy to assemble and pretty much anybody can do it. I don’t think it‘s going away any time soon.
I remember the day I heard I got “Talk Soup” I was teaching my karate class and wasn’t sure how to break the news to them that I wouldn’t be able to teach the class anymore when an elderly student, close to 70, had a heart attack and I had to give him CPR. Thankfully he was OK.
JP: After “Talk Soup” you got the role of Michael on the series “Queer as Folk.” How did that affect your career?
HS: Ironically, after I started “Queer as Folk” is when I started to get booked at the Improv and other places. I was hosting “Talk Soup” and couldn’t get a spot there but after QAF, Bud Friedman wanted to introduce me.
The series showed I could act and do drama and that really helped. But then I had to change my act because my thing was that nobody listens to me, but I couldn’t use that anymore because everyone was listening to me. It took me another five years to find my POV (point of view).
JP: When you were doing the movie “Dude, Where’s my Car”, did you any idea that it would be successful as it was?
HS: I kind of did, When I read the script I thought it was really good. Part of it was the title, which was interesting and it explained the whole premise, which is important when marketing a movie.
JP: And you actually came up with the hand gesture used by your character, Zoltan?
HS: I did. The director thought the original hand gesture was too complicated for the extras to remember. It took me all night and I went through 13 variations before I came up with the final one.
JP: You got to the throw out the first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, How did that happen?
HS: The Pirates adopted the hand gesture during the 2012 season as a good luck gesture and my wife’s family is from the Pittsburgh area.
JP: That’s a lot pressure, throwing out the first pitch. You’re under a lot of scrutiny. What was your strategy beforehand?
HS: I think the trick is to not look like you’re trying to hard. If you throw it too hard, it’s definitely not going to go well. It’s better to throw it light. If you bounce it once before it makes it to the catcher, so what.
JP: So, how did it go?
HS: It was low and outside but it made it to the plate.
(Jason Pomietlasz is a local comedian and co-host of weekly Buffalo.com podcast “Movie Maddness.”)