Family & Companions
A low-key demeanor and boyish looks masked David Spade's wickedly sharp humor, which the comedian turned to his advantage and made his stock-in-trade throughout his career. Most famous on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) for playing some aspect of his own persona - especially with his celebrity-skewering "Hollywood Minute" segment - Spade rose to prominence as the snarky, scrawny foil to the lovably loud Chris Farley in the comedy classic "Tommy Boy" (1995) and its disappointing follow-up, "Black Sheep" (1996). While Farley would succumb to tragedy, Spade played it smart, riding his scene-stealing receptionist role of Dennis Finch to increased fame on the hit sitcom, "Just Shoot Me!" (NBC, 1997-2003). Famous for a string of improbably high-profile, beautiful girlfriends - including Heather Locklear and Lara Flynn Boyle - voicing Disney's titular "The Emperor's New Groove," and starring in the cult hit "Joe Dirt" about a white trash hero, Spade remained private, hardworking and pragmatic about his success. He stayed in close touch with - and employed by - former "SNL" colleague Adam Sandler in a variety of projects, including "Grown Ups" (2010) and added his unique satirical bite as the comic secret weapon of another sitcom, "Rules of Engagement" (CBS, 2007-13). The comedian may not have had the massive, industry-changing success his "SNL" peers Sandler or Chris Rock enjoyed, but Spade carved out his own Hollywood niche, his longevity all the more impressive because of how unexpected it was.
Born on July 22, 1964 in Birmingham, MI to Wayne Spade, a sales rep, and Judith, a writer and magazine editor, David Wayne Spade was the youngest of three brothers, including Brian and Andy (The handbag designer Kate Spade would become a future sister-in-law of the actor after marrying Andy). When Spade was a child, his father moved the family to Scottsdale, AZ and abandoned them shortly thereafter without child support or alimony. Judith's struggle to raise three sons as a single mother deeply impacted Spade, as did the tragedy that struck when Judith remarried, only to have her second husband, Tom Todd, commit suicide. Teased at school for his slight build, the uncertainty and painful events of his youth crystallized a certain kind of anger in Spade that would mark his later approach to comedy. Unlike many other comedians whose pain could drive them to despair, Spade would always maintain his control and remain disciplined rather than self-destructive.
Armed with a quick-wit and razor-sharp sarcasm, Spade began his stand-up career while at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he played the local comedy club circuit. A stint at the Improv in Los Angeles landed him a role as a smirking skateboarder in his feature debut, "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol" (1987). A few guest roles on television series followed, as did a slot as one of six stand-up comedians (including with future "SNL" co-star, Rob Schneider) spotlighted in "The 13th Annual Young Comedians Special" (HBO, 1989) hosted by Dennis Miller, whom Spade would go on to befriend. In a twist of good luck for the two young comics, both Schneider and Spade found themselves the next year as featured cast members and writers on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ), but, unlike Schneider, Spade would not rise to full repertory status until 1993.
Although he bonded tightly with fellow newbie cast members and office-mates Chris Farley, Chris Rock and Adam Sandler on the hallowed 17th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Spade never truly broke out on "SNL." Instead, he watched as his friends began creating indelible characters like Nat X and Opera Man and timeless sketches like "The Chris Farley Show." He was also in danger of being fired for lack of screen time. Awkward as an actor, his most memorable characters stuck closely to the classic Spade persona - mild-looking but nasty - like the Total Bastards Airline flight attendant insincerely bidding all passengers "Buh-BYE!" or the unflappably bored " and you are?" receptionist. Most vividly, however, Spade appeared as himself in "Hollywood Minute" segments, where he coolly eviscerated all things celebrity. So popular was the "Weekend Update" bit, that when it became a full sketch in 1996, the title was changed to "Spade in America." The skit was not without its controversies, as he was skewering real celebrities in a pre-Internet blog era. A "falling star" joke he made apparently enraged Eddie Murphy enough that the fellow cast member publicly vowed never to return to "SNL."
Feature roles resumed for Spade after "SNL" gave him wide visibility: he played a cocaine addict in "Light Sleeper" (1992) and a beleaguered Republican nerd in the college-set satire "PCU" (1994). He began a stint doing voiceover work on "Beavis and Butt-head" (MTV, 1992-97), survived the "SNL" alum salt mine that was the uneven Dan Aykroyd comedy "Coneheads" (1993) and rejected Winona Ryder's application as a fast food manager in "Reality Bites" (1994). At the behest of "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels, who was nothing if not observant around the office, Spade was paired with his office mate and best friend, Chris Farley, in an unassuming movie produced by Michaels, "Tommy Boy" (1995), where the two essentially played themselves. It was the project that elevated not only Spade to new levels of fame and appreciation, but made the duo an automatic comedy team overnight - a less dark and dangerous 1990s version of Aykroyd and Belushi. Unfortunately, both teams would come to share a common fate.
Spade's relationship with the inimitable Farley - overweight yet graceful; beloved yet insecure, boisterous but shy - had become the most important partnership, personal or professional, in Spade's life. When it was released, "Tommy Boy" received mostly poor reviews but did strong box office. Farley played the sweet, naïve son of an auto industry tycoon who needs the acerbic, resentful Spade's help to save the company after his father's untimely death. The dynamic between Spade and Farley captured something very special, and fans responded in a way many critics failed at first to see. Visual and comedic opposites, the caustic, wry, preppy-looking Spade and the innocent, overenthusiastic, sloppily charming Farley shared true chemistry and "Tommy Boy" went on to be a cult classic. The duo reunited in Penelope Spheeris' "Black Sheep" (1996), a rushed follow-up that seemed at best an echo of their first success. Spade played a snarky, tightly-wound staffer charged with keeping Farley, the buffoonish brother of a gubernatorial candidate, out of trouble and out of sight. The movie performed decently, but drew a poor reaction from fans and critics this time out; film critic Gene Siskel said it was one of only two films he ever walked out of.
The complicated connection between Farley and Spade ran very deep even as life pulled them apart. Coming from a painful, tumultuous childhood, Spade approached his career and personal life with discipline and pragmatism, remaining clear-eyed about his trajectory and the limits of his talents. Being the troubled Farley's best friend - as close as family or more so, according to some accounts - began to drain Spade. A hot commodity in Hollywood at first, Farley had big dreams for prestige projects but lacked the business savvy and discipline needed to achieve them, sucked instead into regrettable flops like "Beverly Hills Ninja" (1997). While both Spade and Farley were limited by their personas in terms of roles, Spade made peace with it while Farley privately agonized over the image the public wanted from him: the overweight clown teetering on the edge. Farley grew increasingly out of control; unhappy with his stalled career and with his weight, he let his psychological demons fuel an insatiable drug addiction. The pressure of having to support the childlike Farley on camera as well as off, took its toll on Spade, who had responded to his own personal tragedies with action rather than helplessness. He began to distance himself from Farley, and in 1997 surprised many in Hollywood by taking a supporting role on an ensemble sitcom, "Just Shoot Me" (NBC, 1997-2003).
While many of his "SNL" peers continued to headline movies and TV shows, the practical Spade dug into his small, snappy role as Dennis Finch, the snide office assistant for a fashion magazine. With a cast including George Segal and Wendie Malick delivering over-the-top comedic turns, "Just Shoot Me" was a certified hit and afforded Spade the most acclaim and exposure of his career up to that point. While the show was never a ratings or critical blockbuster, it developed a loyal following and served Spade's talents well, showcasing his infamous wit while also giving him the opportunity to stretch by fleshing out his character. For his work, Spade would earn Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
The demanding routine of the show - as well as the industry and audience goodwill Spade enjoyed because of it - helped soften the tragic news that came just before Christmas 1997. At the same age and by the same prescription as John Belushi, his personal hero, Farley died at age 33, undone by an overdose of heroin and cocaine. Always very controlled with his public persona, Spade was so devastated in private that he would not attend Farley's funeral, saying that he "could not be in a room where Chris was in a box." In the highly charged emotional atmosphere following the death of the beloved celebrity, Spade's decision drew a lot of criticism, especially since the public associated the two so strongly and was eager for Spade to assume the role of "grieving best friend." Spade's career had been built on characters much like himself - prickly and guarded publicly, while concealing great loyalty and feelings - and he resisted public displays of grief. Still, he lovingly - well, as lovingly as the cagey Spade allowed himself to get on camera - introduced a Chris Farley tribute on the "SNL 25th Anniversary Special" (1999) and would continue to honor his partner's legacy, whether it was telling famous Farley stories on talk shows or staying in touch with the deceased comic's family, including Farley's look-a-like brothers.
After playing another snotty jerk - an entitled college kid - in the Marlon Wayans disaster, "Senseless" (1998), Spade made a better career move by returning to Arizona to film his first HBO comedy special, "David Spade: Take The Hit." Riffing on his painful childhood as well as his favorite pop culture targets, Spade's return to form was well received. He made his screenwriting debut with the skewed romantic comedy "Lost and Found" (1999), in which he also starred. Chronicling a man who hopes to win the woman of his dreams with a convoluted plot involving kidnapping her dog, the film was similar in scope and tone to "SNL" buddy Adam Sandler's big screen hits, but it failed to comparably register with audiences. Spade did find success as an executive producer, working in that capacity on the Arizona-filmed, critically lauded independent "Jerome" (1999), an understated tale of disaffected America co-starring Drew Pillsbury and his "Just Shoot Me" co-star Wendie Malick. Additionally, Spade lent his unmistakable voice to characters in the animated features "The Rugrats Movie" (1998) and "The Emperor's New Groove" (2000) which were both smash hits.
A frightening incident in Spade's life occurred in 2000, when his friend and assistant, David "Skippy" Malloy attacked the comedian late one night. Suicidal and allegedly on drugs, the burly Malloy broke into Spade's home in the early hours of the morning and beat the comedian with his fists and a stun gun in an attack that only subsided when a bloody Spade pulled out a loaded shotgun. Downplaying the violence of the attack and showing a surprising amount of forgiveness, Spade said that he hoped Malloy received professional help and did not wish for him to go to jail. His refusal to milk sympathy from the attack was firmly in line with Spade's actions during previous traumatic events, although he would admit later that he still bore physical and emotional scars. One health condition that Spade was more willing to discuss, however, was his sensitivity to light, requiring special health precautions taken on set, while in the make-up trailer, and at any photo shoot.
Spade starred in and co-wrote 2001's comedy "Joe Dirt," playing a mullet-haired, trailer park-bred lovable loser who sets out on a road trip in search of his birth parents. The film was a moderate success and cult favorite. When "Just Shoot Me" ended, Spade penned and starred in another lead feature role in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" (2003), playing a thirty-something ex-Hollywood kid actor so desperate to keep himself in the entertainment industry game he hires a foster family to help him relive his childhood in hopes of winning a part. Although both films drew attention, the reception was decidedly a tier or two below Sandler's similar vehicles, and Spade retreated to surer footing on the small screen. Reflecting the positive public and industry perception of his professionalism and reputation, Spade was tapped by ABC to step in with a recurring role on the sitcom "8 Simple Rules" (2002-05) following the death of series lead John Ritter. Solidifying Spade's success in the mainstream consciousness, he was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in 2003.
As his star rose, audiences became aware of a particularly intriguing aspect of Spade's personality - the appeal he held for gorgeous celebrity women. Although Spade was by no means unattractive, he lacked the prototypical Hollywood leading man looks, so his success squiring a steady stream of Tinseltown's most beautiful women fed plenty of gossip from admiring or bewildered commentators. Some of Spade's reported girlfriends included Krista Allen, Julie Bowen, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sara Foster, Teri Hatcher, Gena Lee Nolin and Kristy Swanson, and he was famously platonic friends with Pamela Anderson and Courteney Cox, who both sang his praises. The concept of "Everyman" Spade as the ultimate celebrity Don Juan burnished the comedian's reputation, and a 2006 relationship with Heather Locklear in the wake of her separation from Bon Jovi bandmate Richie Sambora became one of the most hotly joked-about and discussed stories of the year. Spade responded in typical form, downplaying his Casanova status in public and continuing his romantic success behind closed doors.
Although reviving his signature bit as the host and producer of "The Showbiz Show with David Spade" (Comedy Central, 2005-07) seemed a promising marriage of Spade's withering celebrity one-liners and increasing cultural interest in hard-edged gossip, the snarky program never quite found its audience. His stock rose a bit when the ever-loyal Adam Sandler started tapping him more frequently for collaborations. With a fun, small role in the stoner-friendly "Grandma's Boy" (2006), a lead in the sports comedy "The Benchwarmers" (2006), and an outlandish cameo in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" (2007), Spade's career enjoyed a bump, and he found his next long-running role on the sitcom "Rules of Engagement" (CBS, 2007-13). Playing the foil to two couples navigating the ups and downs of relationships, the comedian seemed to have reached a new level with his acting, relaxed and comfortable, yet still able to steal a scene or skewer with a sharp one-liner.
His bachelor "Rules" role gave journalists ample license to revisit the romantic travails of the never-married Spade, and he spoke honestly about his real-life reluctance to tie the knot, citing the divorces of his parents and several of his friends. He even jokingly said he had already been married, in a sense, to Farley. A fear of repeating his father's mistakes made him gun-shy about matrimony, Spade told reporters, and he became a parent himself under unconventional circumstances. After a brief relationship with Playboy Playmate Jillian Grace, she became pregnant. Choosing to give birth and raise her child in her native Missouri, Grace remained on good terms with Spade, who took an active interest in his paternal role for his daughter, born in 2008. Additional good PR came Spade's way when he donated $100,000 to the police department of his hometown of Phoenix and the following year made an equally generous donation to a program supplying U.S. troops with special helmets.
Any good press was welcome after Spade agreed to star in a universally reviled DirecTV commercial in 2009. As part of the company's series of ads where the original actors revisit iconic roles and movie scenes, only to break character briefly to plug DirecTV, Spade resurrected his "Tommy Boy" role opposite original footage of Farley. The backlash for the ad was immediate and vicious, painting Spade as a washed-up opportunist profiting off a dead man in a shockingly tasteless move. The fact that Farley's family defended it did little to defuse criticism. For his part, Spade held firm to the line that he had only done the ad with the approval of Farley's family and to honor his friend's memory. While the typically private Spade was more forthcoming than usual in his apologies, the fiasco cast a slight shadow over a positive time in Spade's professional life. After a short respite, Spade rejoined "SNL" chums Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider as one of the leads in the summer tentpole comedy, "Grown Ups" (2010), alongside Kevin James. The reunion could not help but seem bittersweet to audiences and to the stars themselves; although these three former "Bad Boys of 'SNL'" still enjoyed enviable careers, the character played by James would have been a perfect fit for Chris Farley.
Continuing to find film employment via various Sandler productions, Spade joined his old buddy in a cross-dressing role as Monica in the critically reviled movie "Jack and Jill" (2011), which fittingly garnered him a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress. After playing the Invisible Man to Sandler's Dracula in the CGI-animated film "Hotel Transylvania" (2012), Spade reconvened with his famous benefactor for the successful sequel "Grown Ups 2" (2013). Meanwhile, after a surprisingly long run, "Rules of Engagement" met its expiration date in May of 2013.
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Began performing stand-up comedy in nightclubs, theaters and college campuses
Feature film debut, played a bit part in the comedy sequel "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol"
Performed his routine on Fox's "The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers"
Earliest TV work included a guest role on an episode of the NBC sitcom "The Facts of Life"
Appeared on the HBO standup comedy special "The 13th Annual Young Comedians Show Hosted by Dennis Miller"
Joined "Saturday Night Live" (NBC) as a writer and cast member; earned three Emmy (1990, 1991, 1993) nominations for Writing
Appeared in second feature film "Light Sleeper"
Served as a creative consultant for the awards show "The 1992 MTV Video Music Awards"
Appeared in the "SNL" spin-off feature "Coneheads"
Featured as a snooty conservative student in Hart Bochner's comedy "PCU"
First leading role, opposite Chris Farley in the comedy feature "Tommy Boy"
Re-teamed with Farley for the comedy "Black Sheep"
Starred as snarky assistant Dennis Finch on the NBC sitcom "Just Shoot Me"; garnered Emmy (1999) and Golden Globe (1999, 2000) nominations for Supporting Actor
Co-starred in the feature "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag"
Starred and executive produced his own HBO comedy special "David Spade: Take The Hit"
Lent his voice to the character of Ranger Frank in "The Rugrats Movie"
Wrote and starred in the feature comedy "Lost and Found"
Executive produced the feature "Jerome," starring "Just Shoot Me" co-star Wendie Malick
Voiced the title character in the animated feature "The Emperor's New Groove"
Created (also wrote and produced) the short-lived animated series "Sammy" (NBC), which was based on Spade's relationship with his father
Played the title role in the comedy "Joe Dirt"
Received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Played the title role of a former child actor in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star"
Joined the cast of "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" (ABC) as Katey Sagal's nephew
Hosted the Comedy Central program "The Showbiz Show with David Spade"
Co-starred with Rob Schneider in "The Benchwarmers"
Cast as single friend Russell Dunbar on the CBS relationship sitcom "Rules of Engagement"
Starred in ensemble comedy "Grown Ups," about five friends who reunite for a Fourth of July holiday weekend; film also starred Kevin James and former "SNL" cast members Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and Rob Schneider
Reteamed with Sandler in the comedy feature "Jack and Jill"
Voiced the Invisible Man in animated feature "Hotel Transylvania"; also starred Sandler
Appeared in the sequel "Grown Ups 2"
Played General George Custer in the western spoof "The Ridiculous 6"
Reprised role of Joe Dirt in the direct-to-video sequel "Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser"
Returned for "Hotel Transylvania 2"
Had a recurring guest role on Judd Apatow comedy series "Love"
Returned yet again for "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation"