By Leslie Van Buskirk
photography by Brian Bowen Smith | October 27, 2014 | People
He’s not a shallow, tart-chasing rake or a self-centered former cheerleader turned tax-law manipulator—he’s just played them on TV. Still, David Spade just can’t stop bringing the funny.
Twill suiting jacket ($1,875) and pants ($690), Marc Jacobs. The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-369-2007. Shirt ($450) and shoes ($800), Giorgio Armani. Via Bellagio, 702-893-8327. Pocket square, Tom Ford ($165). The Shops at Crystals, 702-740-2940. Classic 43.5mm Small Seconds timepiece, David Yurman ($3,600). The Forum Shops at Caesars, 704-794-4545
Although he’s been nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes, perhaps the surest sign of David Spade’s talent is the fact that most people think he really is the snarky womanizer he’s portrayed on TV’s Rules of Engagement and in the Grown Ups movie franchise. But caustic skirt-chasers don’t keep a cache of longtime loyal friends (Spade’s include Saturday Night Live alums Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, movie director Judd Apatow, and Just Shoot Me! costar George Segal), and self-obsessed celebs don’t quietly write personal checks to worthy causes (Spade just donated $100,000 to the ALS Association in lieu of dousing himself with a bucket of ice water and gave $200,000 last summer for Oklahoma tornado relief). What fans may also not realize is that the eternally youthful 50-year-old remains a stand-up-comedy animal, criss-crossing the country for several months a year. Before he hits the Mirage stage with pal Ray Romano on October 17 and 18, the actor-comedian gave us a glimpse of the surprisingly thoughtful guy behind the sarcasm.
What do you remember about your earlier years in Las Vegas?
I started my Vegas show years ago at the Improv at the Riviera—21 shows a week for $500 total. It was three shows a night, 12 minutes a show, and it was great! Although it was really hard to walk through the casino on the way to the show and not be able to play. I mean, you just cannot look, you have to put the blinders on, ’cause $500 isn’t much, you know? Back then I couldn’t stay at the Riviera. I had to stay at, like, the El Chucka Shacka, but I got to eat with the busboys at the Riviera. Those shows were the glory days. [Sopranos actor] Steve Schirripa was my manager at the Riviera—he worked at the hotel back then. I remember that he always said I looked like a girl! And I’m no Celine Dion, but I did pretty well. I filled the room up decently.
If you could see a classic Las Vegas act from the past, who would it be?
Elvis, hands down. I grew up watching his specials—my mom loved him, so the whole family would watch them.
Where do you go in town these days?
I can’t go to the clubs or the pools anymore—the pool has turned into the club now—I’m too old for that. The great thing is that all the hotels have the best restaurants now, so I’ll eat dinner there, do the show, and then I just tap out. [Pause] I can’t really go out into the casino anymore. You know, it used to be autographs—that’s how old I am: People would just ask for an autograph. But now it’s selfies. And the thing about selfies is that before you know it, someone has you in, like, a headlock and you’re going, “What? What’s going on—?” And then it’s done, they’ve taken the selfie, and you’re left going, “What just happened?”
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Is playing Vegas easier or harder than doing a gig in, say, Chicago?
I have to say that audiences here are pretty great. Some people say that Vegas is mostly old people, but that’s changed so much in the past decade or so—it’s younger people mostly. I get a nice mix: people who know me from Saturday Night Live or Rules of Engagement or Grown Ups, although a lot of those people have no idea that I even do stand-up.
Will there be a Grown Ups 3?
I’m sure, yeah. They’re writing it now. I think it’s going to be set in the winter this time and I’m getting married. That’s what I’ve heard anyway, but we’ll see.
Speaking of which: Why are you still on the road doing one-night gigs when you could be sitting back, cashing giant TV syndication checks?
I’m actually waiting on some Rules of Engagement checks right now! [Laughs] I like stand-up—it got me here, it got me on SNL. And it’s still fun. And it’s still hard, but I want to keep up with the other comedians. I like watching them, and I get really jealous when they’re good. And at least I still have some drive—I’m not phoning it in. Stand-up keeps you on your toes.
I imagine it’s been ages since you bombed?
Not like I did when I started out, but I bomb pretty hard every few months. [Pause] I bombed hard in Vegas, actually, for a charity event. They had all these tables set up and it was black tie, which is usually hard. Before I went up, they had this 12-year-old girl onstage, some phenom singer, and this girl sings “I Will Always Love You” and gets a standing ovation! So I’m walking out and she’s coming off, and out of jealousy I say to her, “Hey, you’ll get ’em next time!” And then to add insult to injury, when I’m coming off, and it did not go well, Ray Romano, who’s going on after me, says, “You did good!” And I say, “Ray, no one’s listening. The audience is too far back. It’s just bad.” And then from beginning to end, he crushes! [Laughs] It was so embarrassing.
Twill suiting jacket ($1,875) and pants ($690), Marc Jacobs. The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-369-2007. Navy shirt ($450) and classic black shoes ($800), Giorgio Armani. Via Bellagio, 702-893-8327. Pocket square, Tom Ford ($165). The Shops at Crystals, 702-740-2940. Classic 43.5mm Small Seconds timepiece, David Yurman ($3,600). The Forum Shops at Caesars, 704-794-4545
You’ve worked with a lot of famous people.
Well, I guess that’s true, and I can safely say that I don’t have too many coworkers or exes that hate me...
Since you brought it up: You’ve romanced some celebrated beauties, like Pam Anderson, Heather Locklear, Julie Bowen. Have you found it’s more difficult to date someone in the business, or is it easier?
I think you just date who you like. Sometimes I meet an actress who’s super-cool, and sometimes I meet a waitress who’s super-cool. The hard part is getting them to like you back. There’s pluses and minuses either way.
Considering your many years of experience, what’s your answer to the age-old question “What do women want?”
Um… I’ve had some experience but I’m no expert. Okay, I think if you’re not a good-looking dude, then you have to be interesting—that’s my angle! And now I realize interesting is too hard. I still don’t have it figured out. I’m probably no better at it now than I was 20 years ago. Relationships are so complex. I mean, it’s a terrible thing to say, but I wouldn’t want to be in most marriages that I see. I think, stay in it for as long as it works, you know? Like, give it a year to try to turn things around, not 10 years.
Black wool waistcoat ($920) and black wool pants ($800), Dior Homme. The Shops at Crystals, 702-597-0941. White shirt, Giorgio Armani ($450). Via Bellagio, 702-893-8327. Patterned tie, Emporio Armani ($195). The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-650-5200. CENTER: Suit ($1,350) and French cuff shirt, Emporio Armani ($395). The Forum Shops at Caesars, 702-650-5200. Tie, stylist’s own.
TV’s been very good to you. Will we be seeing you on the small screen again soon?
I’m writing one now with a buddy, and I didn’t realize how spoiled I was. When you start from scratch yourself, you have to put in a good year and a half developing it. I want to do it for cable; it’s more of an R-rated show—not dirty, just a little rougher than network. I would play myself, a version of myself, and I’m getting older and I had a health scare and have to turn my whole life around. It’s fake but it’s a funny premise. It’s a crapshoot. We’ll see what happens.
You recently hit the half-century mark yourself. How did you celebrate?
I decided to go under the radar because I was getting too old. So I just had a dinner, but then a friend made a crazy 25-minute video that was really fun. There were all these people on it—my family, people from Rules of Engagement and Just Shoot Me!, even Elton John! Oh my God, I sound like such a name-dropper. I just realized that. [But] it was so sweet. It closed with Brad Pitt, Miranda Kerr, Jennifer Aniston…. By the way, I’ll be selling copies in the lobby after each show.
Digital photo assistant: Lee Wall Photo. assistants: Embry Lopez and Brandon Smith. Sittings editor: Danielle Yadegar. Stylist: Gaelle Paul for Walter Schupfer Management. Grooming: Sylvia Viau-Kistler for Cloutier Remix