With his memorable work with Chris Farley in Tommy Boy and Black Sheep in tow, David Spade left Saturday Night Live at the end of the 1995-96 season, and within a year he’d returned to the warm embrace of a weekly television series, joining the ensemble cast on the 1997-2003 NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me! He’s essentially had a TV gig ever since, following up his supporting turn as Finch with a stint on 8 Simple Rules (2003-05), the Comedy Central series The Showbiz Show (2005-07), and perennial bubble-watch CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement (2007-13), in addition to film work (most notably, 2001’s Joe Dirt and 2003’s Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star). All the while, he’s never stopped doing stand-up, so, with a new Comedy Central special set to air Sunday at 10 p.m., Vulture thought it was a good time to check in with Spade. And we asked his old SNL buddy Norm Macdonald to interview him, because Norm Macdonald rules. The two talked about Donald Sterling, turning down high-profile talk shows, and why there was never a Joe Dirt 2.
Norm Macdonald: Should we start?
David Spade: All right, Donald Sterling.
You want me to ask about Donald Sterling?
The phone call that was taped with Donald Sterling, he doesn’t use any pejoratives for any minorities. Like, even though it’s really racist, he’s like, I don’t like African-Americans. I don’t care for minorities.
I know. Why is everyone getting so mad then? [Laughs.] It’ll be old by the time this comes out.
Yeah, it’ll be gone.
People tell me about it and they’re like, Didja hear about that? And girls will go, It’s not cute, is it? And I go, What’s not cute? And they go, Old guy – young girl. I’m like, I don’t think that’s the primary focus here.
It’s just another dig at me like, Is that really me, exactly? and they go, I mean, it could be. Give you another year or two. And I go, He’s 150!
Wait a minute — you turn 50 this year, which is a really good year.
Oh, thanks, blabbermouth.
That’s what it says on my computer! Does that make you feel weird?
No, but I know what part I’m editing out of this. Yeah, easy, town crier! “Hear ye, hear ye. I, the town cock-blocker!”
Donald Sterling — it says that he’s 80.
So, I’m looking like a real spring chicken.
Yeah, if you sit next to him.
I like that I’ve known you for so many years and you have to go to Wikipedia to go, What is this fucking guy on again?
I had other questions written down, but I lost the paper.
It’s all right, I’ll ask them. “How did I get started?”
No, I have a question for you because I remember this was close to your heart. A Joe Dirt sequel: Why don’t you do that?
Oh, right! I do really like Joe Dirt.
It was a great movie. It was you and the great Fred Wolfe.
Yeah, we did write a sequel. They were going to do it at Sony, a real sequel in the theaters, and then Deuce Bigalow 2 came out. I love [Rob] Schneider, but it was bad timing because then they said, “Yank Joe Dirt.” We revved it up a few years later, and then Pink Panther 2 came out and that took a shit and then they were like, “No more Joe Dirt.” And now the movie business is kind of tough, because the DVD business is hurting. So we might do it for Crackle, which you wouldn’t know …
I know it. I have it on my TV.
Oh, you do? It’s Sony’s internet company.
It’s getting big! Jerry Seinfeld’s interviews with comedians in cars is on that, did you know that?
Yeah, they won an award for the longest title, folks! No, I’m kidding. Comedians in Cars Sitting With Jerry Getting Coffee and Driving Around.
Here’s a question I just thought of! One time I turned down a high-profile talk show, and then I was told that you also turned down the same high-profile talk show. Did you ever turn down a high-profile talk show?
Well, it took a little of the specialness out of it knowing that the first guy that called me got it, too. But I think it was around SNL. Was it Letterman? Or is it just one that we don’t want to say the name?
We don’t want to say the name.
Okay. I heard Craig Ferguson quit.
Oh, my goodness.
Norm’s like, Knock, knock, knock.
A cloud of dust! The way he does things makes it seem like it would be an easy job, but I always feel like it would be a very difficult job.
It is hard.
I think he got $5 million. They paid him $5 million because he didn’t get the Letterman spot. Someone at the coffee shop told me! Everyone knows everything.
Someone just told me before I called you, they said, “Wow, Ferguson quit.” I was like, “Is that true?”
Oh, yes. “Craig Ferguson Reportedly Leaving the Late Late Show …”
Oh, easy, fucking keyboard whiz.
I know! So, that’s good news for Colin Jost.
Who is that?
[Laughs.] He’s the guy that does “Weekend Update.”
Oh, okay. What about Chelsea Handler? She might do it. They might need a chick.
I think Chelsea Handler’s too big.
Too famous, yeah.
Or her boobs are too big?
One time when Chelsea Handler wasn’t famous, I was at this club. She’s written these books about how she was promiscuous and gets drunk and everything.
You were like, check and check.
No, I’ve never met her, but I go to this club and they were like, Oh, Chelsea Handler was here last week, and I said, “Oh, how was she?” He said, “She’s a big phony. She didn’t fuck anybody!”
[Laughs.] That’s hysterical.
Would you consider hosting The Late Late Show, the one that Craig Ferguson just stepped down from?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think a talk show is tough. I don’t know if I could get it as a white, male host. I think I’m just too much of the same shit, you know? Chelsea has a better chance.
No, I think you have the quickest wit I’ve ever met, so I think you’d be just fine. Just as fine as Letterman. Because Letterman has the quickest wit of anyone I’ve ever met, and then you have the second.
Well, I do appreciate that, if you’re serious. I would like the joke part and monologues and making up shit, but I think sitting down and talking with the Real Housewives of Atlanta … I don’t know if I’ve ever really done that, and I don’t know if I’d be any good.
When I see Letterman, he is probably more distant from the world of show-business than anybody. Neither of you pretends to be interested. It’s pretty astonishing.
Yeah, he’s good at it. That’s the hardest part. You know when you’re on a talk show and you’re telling your story, and they’re not supposed to interrupt you or jump in? It’s just very tricky.
Yeah, it’s hard not to interrupt. It’s hard to listen. I think with Letterman, he’ll start to say a joke, but the guy will keep talking, so he’ll just abandon his joke, and just let the guy keep talking.
That’s hard because you want to hear what Letterman’s saying.
Yeah, yeah. But he has so much confidence. He knows he’ll think of something at the end and it doesn’t matter.
Yeah, he’s great.
Would you like to be on Letterman before he leaves?
Of course, he was always the one I’m nervous to go on.
No, no, no, I had this joke, I’d had it in my act for 15 years or something. And then I did the joke on his show, and then he tagged it with a much better line.
How much do you do stand-up?
All the time. David, you’re doing a stand-up special, I was told. A little bird told me.
[Laughs.] A little birdie from Comedy Central that has a gun to your head to do this interview. Yeah, it’s on Sunday at 10.
Oh, it’s on this Sunday? Wow. How long does it have to be? Does it have to be an hour?
I probably did an hour-six in the long version they sell, and that’s every joke. And then they have a 47-minute version, because they have commercials.
You could do the 47 minutes and then keep the rest for your act.
Yeah, that’s all every comedian thinks of: How many jokes can I keep? I realized with my first HBO special, I wound up not doing a Chris Rock–Dennis Miller and throwing it out. I wound up actually still doing it and sort of rotating in bits as they came, and rotating some out. I didn’t catch a lot of shit for that. I think that’s what I’ll probably do again. You have 20 minutes to play with, so I’ll use that to kind of build more stuff.
Yeah, I think you can do that. I can’t. I have more long-form stuff.
Right, you have six jokes that are 14 and a half minutes.
They’re like, “Norm, we have to take 20 minutes out — which joke should we cut?”
But I think you’re right. You know, Jay Leno never did an HBO special. He told me he itemized the jokes, like what they were worth, on the road, and how much it made him. Each one made him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I was like, I sort of want this act out there. People don’t really know I do stand-up, so when they come to see me, they saw me on a sitcom. This is more my direct sense of humor, not that it’s any better, but it’s just more me.
You are a great stand-up. But when people don’t know, then they go, Well, David, I’m sure he’ll be good, because I saw Jon Lovitz last week.
[Laughs.] I don’t even know where you’re going with that, but I like it.
No, because Jon Lovitz became a stand-up at the age of 60. You were a stand-up I’m guessing in your teens.
From the looks of my first headshot! I think we have to wrap this up. I have to operate the mechanical bull at Saddle Ranch. My shift is starting.
Wait, I have another question for you though, before you go to Saddle Ranch. I was going to ask you: “Where do you get your ideas?” But then I realized it’s not that good a question.
I get them from other comedians.
[Laughs.] Okay, here’s a question, and I wrote this down on a piece of paper. What do you know for sure?
Oh my god. I don’t even have any good answers for this one. Do you have an example?
Well, like Bill Maher would say, “One thing I know for sure is there is no god!”
I know what I was going to say. “Well, one thing I know for sure is I’m really funny.” That’s probably what Bill Maher would also say.
No, I don’t think I know anything for sure.
Really? That’s the correct answer. You don’t know anything for sure!
Yeah, I got it right.
Yeah, have fun at Saddle Ranch!
All right, buddy, thank you for taking the time.
Okay. I love you.
I miss you, honey.