Whatever people were expecting out of spending a Saturday night with David Spade, they probably didn’t get it.
That could be good, it could be bad, or it could be a tad surprising.
For example, if you were among the Spade aficionados in packed Seneca Niagara Events Center crowd, you know the 50-year-old former “Saturday Night Live” star has the sense of humor of a college frat boy.
But if you were among the Spade uninitiated?
What if you were expecting a smattering of getting-old, these-kids-these-days jokes?
Then your eyes probably grew a little wide when Spade harkened back to his days as a third-grader from a poor family – and got more than a little vivid not only about his smart-aleck rich-kid classmate’s 64-crayon Crayola box (“a brick with every color in the rainbow squirting out of it”) but also about how those crayons, um … aroused his classmates.
Or you may have squirmed just a little when Spade told a three-part story about hanging out at strip clubs, including a lap-dance tutorial for the married men who’ve never had one, and his re-enactment of how strippers collect dollar bills from the floor. (Spade’s insight: They use a Dustbuster.)
People laughed at those tales, and at all of Spade’s material, which ranged from a rant about the city-like size of Vegas hotels like the MGM Grand to a tale about skiing with his buddies.
Spade, clad in an untucked plaid shirt and black snapback cap, spun stories over jokes. His pace and timing are pristine; his voice inflection and physicality drive home the humor without overpowering his words. In fact, among the biggest laughs Spade earned came when he riffed about the tiny, palm-sized Seneca Niagara water bottle he brought onstage.
“Hummingbird feeder!” he barked before lifting the bottle to his mouth and sucking water rapid-fire through pursed lips.
The crowd was warmed up nicely for Spade with a double helping of openers. Bobby Miyamoto led off with a smooth set that compared deodorant scents and Gatorade flavors (“They’re the same thing!”) and suggested that online airplane seat selection menus should include pictures (“I always sit next to the creepiest people”).
Miyamoto then introduced a surprise second opener, the actor Kevin Farley, whose sandy hair, expressive face and sizable girth are a spitting image of his legendary, late brother Chris Farley, who was Spade’s “SNL” castmate.
If we were measuring laughs per minute or crowd volume, Farley got the most. That’s partly due to his material, which included a lengthy discussion on his devilish ways of releasing bodily gas in elevators. But it was also in part due to his name and, frankly, resemblance to his famous older brother.
Expectations come from last names, be it Farley, or be it Spade. That’s a tribute to their success, of course, but it also means fans will be jolted by stand-up material that would never make the cut on camera.
They almost always laugh. But sometimes that laughter is tinged with surprise, shock, or awkwardness. Like this: During a bit on lawyers who specialize in representing drunk drivers, Spade said, “I’m old enough to remember when there was no such thing as DUI! Remember when America was great?”
To that, the crowd cheered. It seemed like an odd punchline to grant extra enthusiasm; I sat wondering whether the cheers were applauding a time when people could drive drunk and keep their license, or simply that Spade had given a nod to his age.
And that kicked in my inner dialogue: My better, more open side reminded me that this is comedy, and humor and offensiveness can be conjoined. But then that comedic devil on my other shoulder reminded me that humor – especially the edgy kind – should come with a message.
Example: A couple of months ago, George Lopez stood on that same stage and spewed an hour’s worth material that was bluer than any crayon in the Crayola box – all of which collectively served as a criticism of American parents.
Unless you interpret it through amber-colored frat-boy beer goggles, Spade’s deeper message wasn’t so clear. Except for this: It seems he has a lot of fun being David Spade.