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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 6, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 18
Wildly talented Hal Sparks talks to SGN
Arts & Entertainment
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Wildly talented Hal Sparks talks to SGN

by Anthony Greer - SGN Contributing Writer

Hal Sparks performed at the Nordstrom Recital Theatre on April 29. Best known for playing the role of Michael Novotny on Queer as Folk and for his commentary on VH1's pop culture hit series I Love the '80s, Sparks spoke with SGN about his career as a comedian/actor/musician and what fans can expect to see at his show.

'I deal with pop culture and socio-political issues, but I do it in a way that is palatable. I'm a big fan of inclusion,' Sparks said. 'The nice thing about my act is that it's all new and it changes all the time.'

After Queer as Folk's five-year run, Sparks hit the road and began working on a show. The result was Charmageddon, Sparks' one-hour Showtime stand-up comedy special which was released last summer and is now a best-selling DVD. Among the subjects of Charmageddon were Gay rights, being sex-positive, and equality for women.

'The goal of my career has always been to release a stand-up special about every year and a half,' Sparks said. 'I want to be somebody while also making jokes to add to the public dialogue.'

A lot of what he discusses can be heard on his Wednesday radio show, Hump Days with Hal.

'I also do a Saturday show in Chicago now [Chicago Progressive Talk] and I videostream the show so that people can both listen to and watch it. Across the board it's been a great political outlet,' Sparks said. 'It's great for me to have so that I can deal with those issues on a serious note, so that when I go to stand-up I can lighten things up a bit.'

Sparks has come a long way since he started his career as a comedian. He moved from Kentucky to Chicago at the age of 14 and jumped at the chance to join the Second City troupe.

'In my opinion, it's the greatest acting school you can go to. Second City is famous the world over. The original Saturday Night Live cast came from there,' Sparks said.

From there he moved to L.A. and began performing in numerous comedy clubs including the Ice House, the Comedy Store, the Improv, and the Laugh Factory before landing a job as the host of E!'s Emmy-winning show Talk Soup.

'I auditioned for Talk Soup for five years. I kept coming back and kept coming back, and in the fifth year what got me the job was that I stopped acting like I wanted it so bad,' Sparks explained. 'I kinda did a throwaway audition. I'm just gonna go in and enjoy myself. I'm gonna make myself laugh, write some jokes, and be a bit of a dick.'

Sparks' experience with Talk Soup wasn't quite what he expected. '[It was as] if your dream came true, but it had fishhooks in it. There are elements you're not too aware of when you're just shooting for it. I had to learn a lot at that job about managing expectations and delivering a good show. However, the benefit of being on TV and being funny every day was worth it. It was an amazing gift.'

From there, Sparks stepped outside of his comedic bubble and played the comic-book-loving Michael Novotny in Showtime's Queer as Folk.

'I came into the show with the sympathies and respect for the Gay community that I've always had. & I've always believed in equal rights and am supportive of my Gay friends. I wanted them to be treated with respect and equality that they deserved. I'm very surprised that I was able to be a part of a project that would lead to that,' Sparks said.

'[Queer as Folk's] writing was solid. The story felt like it had to be told. This has worth & this is going to help human beings that I'll never meet. It's very seldom that you get a script that you think will do people some good.'

Sparks added that he was grateful to play a character with an actual story arc, going from being Brian Kinney's best friend/follower to becoming a leader in his community with an HIV-positive husband and adopted teenage son. 'As an actor, it was very satisfying to play it and to see it play out. It might even be an instruction manual for people who found themselves in the same situation,' he said.

In addition to his acting credits, stand-up routines, and radio shows, Sparks is also in a band, Zero 1, which just recently got a record deal with Rocket Science. He's also worked on the pilot for a new Disney Channel series called Lab Rats, which he is very excited about.

'My career is in a constant rotation,' Sparks said, 'but as far as stand-up goes, I'll never stop doing it.'

S For more information on Hal Sparks, you can follow him on Twitter and on his website, www.halsparks.com.

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