Hal Sparks on acting vs. stand-up and avoiding stagnation

Comedian Hal Sparks will perform the first of five Denver shows tomorrow at Comedy Works South. Sparks, who has hosted Talk Soup and starred in Queer As Folk, has been focusing more lately on his stand-up career. His comedy special is available now through Showtime, he has a CD coming out this year called Comedy is Not Cool and he's already working on the next thing. We talked to him by phone before this tour and he explained the role stand-up plays in his career.

Westword:You'll be in Denver for five shows -- what do you like about spending more time in one place? Hal Sparks: It depends on what I'm actually doing. But generally, it's much easier to get settled into one club. There's a little more fluidity. People in a club environment are more open to letting you explore.

WW: How does stand-up fit into your career at this point? HS: When I was doing Talk Soup, it was a five-days-a-week gig. So I really didn't have time. After Queer As Folk, I had time to re-focus on stand-up.

I've been doing stand up since I was 15. And it's the kind of thing that requires constant gardening. Most actors don't have much flexibility. The nice thing about being in stand-up is I have room to move. I don't have jump into my next seven year contract. And, of course, stand-up is a legit arm of my creativity. I do it as an art form in and of itself, I'll do it my whole life.

WW: Are you drawing mostly from the upcoming Comedy is Not Cool for this tour? HS: I'm actually focusing on what comes after that. My special, Charmageddon, is airing now on Showtime, so if I'm supporting anything it's that. But I think ultimately as a comic it's important to deliver regular new material all the time. I think it's important to get on the road, develop your hour, and yet still build stuff that's got some permanence to it.

HS: Do you prefer roles as a commentator or an actor? HS: Creatively speaking, they're almost incomparable. In acting, you sort of rent your body out to another body. Part of the goal of it is getting out of your own way. When you're doing stand-up and commentary it's about your personality focusing in more than ever. I'm not always on, but in those moments it's where the spear comes to a point.

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Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky