Still Standing

Snarkiness runs in the family. David Spade tells his stand-up audience that his mom has perfected the comeback for almost every situation.

Should they maybe take the Costco deli tray out of its plastic packaging?

"Don’t get all Hollywood on me."

"That’s like her biggest burn. It gets her out of any situation," he explains.

Should they turn on the air conditioning in the car?

"OK, Mr. Showbiz."

"Mom, why does having a.c. mean I’m Mr. Showbiz?"

"She just knows it’ll shut me up," Spade notes on the telephone, back on home ground in Arizona during a production break on his sitcom, "Rules of Engagement."

As a matter of fact, he realizes during the course of this conversation, meeting up with some friends but heading straight to the phone to do this interview does seem a little Mr. Showbiz.

"It’s good to kind of be kept in check," he says. "I don’t want to get all Britney Spears."

The Arizona visit gives Spade new material for his act — which he brings back to the Planet Hollywood Resort today and Saturday — but also puts perspective on those parts of his life that do get all Hollywood.

"I try to live a pretty normal life, but it’s tough," he says. "When they go after me, I don’t like it of course, but I try to roll with it."

The 43-year-old comedian has dished it out and taken it. He first became a "Saturday Night Live" breakout in the ’80s with the celebrity takedowns of his "Hollywood Minute." He was doing a modified version of the format on Comedy Central’s "The Showbiz Show" as recently as last year.

"I always knew that it was easier to be on the end of it that I was," he says. The attention pointed his way at several stages of stardom, starting with the death of his "SNL" friend and movie co-star Chris Farley in 1997. "People were on my case for not going to the funeral."

Then came the bizarre attack by a former assistant in 2000. "That was way worse than it sounded," he says. "It was coming as close to being killed as I’ve ever been in my life, but I didn’t want to say that then, because I didn’t want people to have an opinion about it."

And in January came the leak that Playboy Playmate Jillian Grace is pregnant and saying Spade is the father. "That will figure itself out as to what the outcome is," he says, noting he wants to try, however futilely, to keep that one personal.

But whether the stories are true or false, "You really sometimes have to find yourself on the defensive." Once something is reported, "Now it’s my story to stop."

He begged off Howard Stern’s radio show while he was dating Heather Locklear. "I’ve talked to (Stern) about this off the air: ‘Going on, it only benefits you. You’re going to ask me all sexual things. It’s not a huge benefit to me.’ It’s really hard to come out of those things looking like a good guy."

The limelight hasn’t completely mellowed Spade’s celebrity snideness. But he says his own experience made him remember to "keep it light and funny" on the Comedy Central show (which is no longer on the cable channel’s schedule).

"It’s very hard to be mean for the sake of being mean, because then jokes can go the wrong way," he says. "It’s really hard to go, ‘Hey, have you seen this girl? She’s really ugly.’ Everyone goes, ‘O-kaaay.’ "

He always can take refuge in Las Vegas, a place that’s been good to his stand-up career for 10 years now. A place where fans show their solidarity by yelling at Joe Dirt.

"I’m not really the Sean Penn who gets quietly looked at. I get, ‘Joe Dirt!’ People bring me a shot and want me to do it."

"Joe Dirt" and "Tommy Boy" are "the two biggest movies that had some resonance with people."

Stand-up always has been part of his career, but "different people know me from different things," he says. "There’s a whole chunk that only sees me on Capital One commercials."

Spade played The Mirage for the past few years, but Robert Earl lured him to Planet Hollywood’s "Stomp Out Loud" theater by offering a weekend every month. "It’s actually better if I do it a little more frequently," Spade says. "Sometimes between Mirage gigs, I would have to go do a college or go do the Improv in town to try to freshen up or get some stuff going."

He doesn’t put out many celebrity zingers in the act, because they don’t fit the rhythm of his casual approach. In February, Spade paced the stage in a ball cap, offering first-person, anecdotes at relaxed, conversational speed: a scary helicopter ride, a trip to the zoo, the difference between panhandlers in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

And when he’s in need of new material, he always can visit his mother. She has two dogs now and can’t leave them alone long enough to go out to lunch. He had his own snarky comeback for that one:

"You didn’t seem to have a problem with leaving us for eight hours a day when we were growing up."

"Now the dogs live better than I ever did as a kid," he says.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or (702) 383-0288.

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