Movie: Comedy is one of the toughest genres to review for a number of reasons, some relating to personal taste, and others relating to the timeliness of the material. Some people like the down home warmness of shows like Leave It To Beaver and the Andy Griffith Show while others like the meanness of comedians like Don Rickles, Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison, or others on that end of the spectrum. The dynamics of the acts change according to the audience and material presented but in the end, what makes a person laugh is as individual as to what kind of porn turns them on. Well, that brings us to the subject of today's review of David Spade: Take the Hit.
Spade is the short, sarcastic guy best known for his work on television shows such as Saturday Night Live, Just Shoot Me, and most recently on 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Daughter. His brand of humor is the kind that lashes out at the world and attempts to elevate his own stature by lowering that of others. Using sarcasm and an air of superiority that most of us are all too familiar with in the vein of snobbishness made popular back in the 1980's, Spade excels in the genre like few others before him. Though admittedly an acquired taste (I think he's hilarious), he brings the kind of trailer trash given his 15 minutes of fame type of humor a decent run in most venues. Take the Hit was filmed at the Improv in Tempe, Arizona; way back in 1998 (airing almost exactly 8 years ago on HBO). At the time this was recorded, Spade's fortunes had taken a turn for the worse with his SNL over, his moderate movie success on the down slide with the death of colleague Chris Farley, and little going on of note for a long time as he attempted to cash in on past glories. While eventually this led to numerous television cameos and success as the bratty guy who is typically put in his place as a spoiled loser, when this performance was recorded, he was definitely at a low point in his career.
The up side of the show was that Spade had little to lose and plenty of room to hone his road act as he had done at the beginning of his career. Of personal interest was his observations about the quality of movies (suggesting he'd be willing to pay more for large budget blockbusters from Hollywood over the typical independent crap that cost the same $8 at his local theatre) and how pointless edits are (taking major potshots at the USA network for editing out the nudity of the lousy movies they tend to show on late night weekends). His wit extended to attacking bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd who are essentially one hit wonders to groups like the Eagles who tour forever, modifying their songs to suit the town they're playing in that night (which works wonders for driving fans wild), to "gay bands" like Queen ("their name should've been my first clue") and Wham (playing with the lyrics of their songs).
Most of his best jokes though were those that dealt with his personal life, real, imagined, or simply embellished from his sorted past. His grandmother wanting to nail classmate Brad Pitt, helping out a friend's stripper wife, or growing up in the boonies of Arizona with all the loser high school antics expected from the late 1970's. If you dissect his routine and analyze it at all, he's a pretty nasty guy trying to compensate for something or other but if you just sit back and listen to him joke around, his material was largely timeless (though the Jon Benet quips were creepy). Unlike PBS's homespun humor in the 1997 season of Red Green, the more gender related comedy of The Man Show or Brad Stine's unique brand of conservative humor in Tolerate This, Spade was all over the map in his rarely related vignettes.
Fans of family humor will probably appreciate how his take no prisoners style of attack comedy too, commenting on his dad's rude remarks about his mother, grandma calling him a pussy for not hooking her up, and his step dad's discussion of how orally fixated his mother was. In all, the show was a good counterpoint to the political correctness that so overwhelms the airwaves these days and serves as a reminder as to how valuable pay cable (HBO, Showtime, and the others) had been to spreading comedy beyond the smoky clubs on the comedy circuit, leading to some of the basic cable shows getting more freedom in the ensuing years. It was cheap, he was funny, and while it was too short and had no extras, it was worth at least a Rent It.
Picture: David Spade: Take the Hit was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as it was originally recorded for airing on HBO. It was well lit with all the usual high end production values expected of such a show. There appeared to be two or three cameras but aside from some minimal physical humor, most of Spade's comedy here was strictly verbal (an audio CD would've worked as well) though there were some hand gestures used to punctuate the routine. In short, it looked fine but it wasn't a visually driven show.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo English. The vocals were clearly heard and the audience laughed at most of the jokes in the background. There was no separation between the channels and the dynamic range was nothing special.
Extras: There were no extras at all.
Final Thoughts: David Spade: Take the Hit served as a time capsule for the work of David Spade when he was in between better gigs. Like most of the SNL crowd that have moved on, his best work is still in television or in supportive roles but he is one of the few that could easily make a living on the road, despite the brand of comedy he embraces (if not because of it). This HBO special lasted under an hour and made weak use of the DVD format but if you're a fan of the guy and not willing to wait for a lengthy retrospective including all his material released to date, this will do for now.