David Spade Opens up About How #MeToo Has Affected Stand-up Comedy

(Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)

Who needs a laugh right about now? In a new Los Angeles Times interview published Saturday, actor, comedian, and sometime talk show host David Spade got a little serious, but not too serious. That’s just how he rolls, as any native Arizonan like him will confirm.

You probably know David best from his TV work on “Saturday Night Live,” “Just Shoot Me,” “Rules of Engagement,” or movies like “Tommy Boy,” “Joe Dirt,” and “Grown-Ups.”

And until just around the time the pandemic made everything wacko across the country, he hosted a daily talk show on Comedy Central called “Lights Out,” which he says the network canceled after less than a year on the air and fired him just about a month after he converted the show to an “at-home” version.

He tells the LA Times the show’s production staff got no warning…at all:

“Honestly, I was kind of shocked,” said Spade, 56. “They said we were gonna shut down fully and told me around the same time it was in Deadline. We hadn’t cleaned out our offices. We had no idea.”

[…]

He said he was told the decision to ax the show was a cost-saving measure.

“The reason I heard was the new guy wants to cut anything that’s kind of expensive and go kind of cheap,” Spade said, referring to Chris McCarthy, who came in as ViacomCBS’ president of entertainment youth Brands, including Comedy Central, at the beginning of 2020. “It wasn’t that [expensive], but I think he’s talking, like, really inexpensive.”

But David has a new gig thanks to a Netflix executive who was a fan of the show. “The Netflix Afterparty” appears to keep about same format (interviews with his fellow comedians), but moves David to a weekly outing in its premiere episode over the weekend (Saturday) and focuses on what’s airing on the streamer.

Enter “The Netflix Afterparty,” premiering Saturday. The show, which will be released weekly, has Spade and co-hosts Fortune Feimster and London Hughes chatting with talent from Netflix’s most popular films and television shows.

In the interim, though, fans have been able to catch his home-recorded “non-ologues” and mini-monologue joke masterclasses like this one “from the bunker,” via his YouTube page.

David commented on the “hook” that’s followed him since his “SNL” days, that of a “snarky Hollywood type”:

“You’re always going to be known for a couple of things. It’s funny, because at ‘SNL’ everyone was trying to find a hook. You’re the angry guy, you’re deadpan, you’re the guy who does crazy characters. Let’s say I’m a snarky Hollywood type. The funny thing is, the second you get a hook, you spend the rest of your career trying to get rid of it. But you can’t beat it up forever. I just don’t want people to think I’m not trying. I still try, whether it seems like it or not.

Some people say, ‘You really walked through that last movie,’ and I say, ‘Unfortunately, I didn’t. I wish I did.’ I do have sort of an attitude that looks like I don’t try. But I do get nervous.”

The LA Times also asks him about the difference between his movies coming out in theaters and on a site like Netflix, which has been the home to his last three releases, The Do-Over, Father of the Year, and the new The Wrong Missy.

“You can’t compare it to looking at the box office. That’s like, ‘Oh, you’ll probably get another movie.’ No one is aware of this. You don’t get the fun of going out to dinner to celebrate. It’s like a text that’s like, “Congrats, you’re No. 1 in the world!” There’s no Yankee doodle dandy, running around the city feeling cool.

But when you think about it and you go, OK, “The Wrong Missy” had 59 million views in the first month. So if you say “Grown Ups” made $160 million and tickets are $16, what is that, 10 million people see it? Netflix movies are seeping in so deep to people in one day, instead of [doing] a movie and a press junket here and then we’d go to Europe and then it goes to HBO and then video. “Tommy Boy,” “Joe Dirt” — those movies didn’t make that much, and then they seeped in through TBS or HBO.”

As I was researching this article, my colleague Susie Moore happened to mention she recently watched “The Wrong Missy,” which she thought was “kind of funny”:

“It was kind of gross in that Hangover-ish slapstick way. But it was actually kind of funny and cute.”

But the LA Times interviewer also broaches what David calls a “touchy subject,” the comedy world in the era of #MeToo, in asking about recent accusations of “sexual misconduct” by fellow comedians Chris D’Elia, Bryan Callen, and Jeff Ross. Then they ask David if he “think[s] more male comics should be speaking out against this kind of behavior.”

He answers at length:

It is a touchy subject. I think everyone’s scared to speak up and be canceled or say the wrong thing. If guys are doing something like that right now, get rid of them. If you’re still f— around and treating people super [poorly] or attacking women or saying “suck my d— and I’ll give you a job” and don’t think there’s any repercussions? This isn’t “Mad Men” anymore.

He continues, explaining his genuine surprise to see this happening in the comedy world. [Warning: adult content/sexual references]

This is the weirdest place that this is all happening. Getting [oral sex] in the Belly Room? You would think the NBA — sports and side chicks. I’m sure the music world is super f— sketchy. I look at someone like David Lee Roth, and he’s having contests to f— as many girls as he can and that’s what you think goes on. Then you see David Lee Roth going, “I can’t believe what’s going on at the Comedy Store!” Comedy, of all places. I wasn’t really aware of all that craziness because I’m not a super club comic anymore. You walk in, see the set list and say, ‘Hey man, how’s the crowd?’ And that’s it.

[A]t the Comedy Store, [the talent coordinator] Adam Eget, I think takes booking pretty seriously. When you have individual comedians coming to him and saying, “Can you get this person on?” I’ve seen him shut people down. It was never, like, “This one is a hotsie tootsie, can they get on?”

The announcement about David Spade’s new gig comes on the heels of the news in November that host Conan O’Brien will be leaving his TBS show, after his contract ends later this year, to join the HBO Max streamer for a weekly variety show. And it’s rumored that James Corden, who took over “The Late Late Show” hosting duties when Craig Ferguson left in 2014, is looking to leave the scene — and maybe the country — in a couple of years, as well. It seems there’s an entertainment realignment taking place, and it didn’t stop with first-run movies getting digital releases during the pandemic.

Speaking of the Chinese virus (or the fear of it by California’s government officials) that continues to ravage television shows with live audiences, it appears: Variety reported this evening that both Jimmy Kimmel and Corden will return to “at home” programs immediately, starting with Monday’s shows.

Here’s a segment of one of the “Lights Out” episodes that may give viewers a glimpse of what Spade’s Netflix show might look like. It featured a cabal of former SNL “Weekend Update” hosts: Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, and Norm Macdonald…and a cameo by Colin Quinn. I hope it makes you laugh as hard as it made me laugh: (Caution: contains adult language)