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April 10, 2001
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SJP


Spade digs up Dirt
Comedian sheds his sarcastic edge
By LOUIS B. HOBSON


HOLLYWOOD -- There are times when David Spade feels he's an accident waiting to happen.

When he walks into the interview room to promote his new comedy Joe Dirt which opens Friday, Spade immediately asks for the blinds to be drawn and the lights lowered.

The last celebrity to make such a request was Catherine Deneuve when she was promoting the re-issue of her 1967 classic Belle De Jour.

The famous French beauty was attempting to preserve the illusion she hadn't aged perceptibly in the 30 years since Belle De Jour's original release.

Spade insisted he had a different and more legitimate reason to ask for subdued lighting.

"When I was filming Black Sheep in 1995, I hurt my eyes. It was a combination of the bright lights on the set and the blazing sun. Now I am super sensitive to light," he explains.

"I have to wear a hat even indoors and flashes in particular freak me out. I even have to make them turn down the lights in the make-up trailers. I've become such a pain in the butt with this light-sensitive thing, it's a wonder they don't just shoot me."

Well done, David.

In a matter of minutes, Spade has reminded his interviewers that, after five years, his TV show Just Shoot Me is still one of NBC's major hit comedies.

Spade is also nursing a sore shoulder from an accident on the set of Joe Dirt. In this subversive little comedy, Spade plays a janitor at a radio station who has made it his life's mission to reunite with the parents who abandoned him in a garbage bin when he was eight during a vacation at the Grand Canyon.

At one point in his search, Joe worked at an alligator farm. His job was to stick his head in the jaws of an old, friendly gator.

One day, the gator felt it had done one too many shows for unruly tourists and decided to take it out on Joe.

"We were using this mechanical alligator that had steel wires in its mouth.

"For each take, I would let the technicians whomp me one good one with the mouth to make it look realistic. It was the equivalent of a head butt from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"One time those steel wires ripped my shoulder open. Now it pains me sporadically."

Spade is also still smarting from the jolt he received back in December when his friend David Malloy jabbed him with a stun gun.

Malloy, who'd been Spade's personal assistant for five years, was allegedly robbing his employer's house when the actor surprised him.

"David's gone and pleaded not guilty so I can't talk that much about it," says Spade who joked about the incident on the VHI Music Awards only hours after the attack.

"I will say the whole incident was weird, crazy, nuts. I couldn't have written a scene that bizarre."

In Joe Dirt which Spade also wrote, he plays one of his softer characters. The bitter, sarcastic edge has gone.

"There's no Chris Farley in the movie, so I got to be the nice guy for a change. Dennis Miller is basically the old David Spade character. I came up with most of the stuff Dennis has to say because it's what I would have said if I'd played the obnoxious DJ."

Spade and Farley met on Saturday Night Live, then created and starred together in the films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep.

Farley died of a drug overdose in 1997.

Spade has cast the actor's brothers John Farley and Kevin Farley in small roles in Joe Dirt. "It took me a couple of years to get in touch with John and Kevin because they reminded me so much of Chris. To this day, when I think of something really funny, I get the urge to leave a message on his answering machine. That's what I used to do."

Spade admits he never tried to intervene in Farley's self-destructive spiral.

"My response to Chris was that I wanted to drink and party more with him. Physically, that was an impossibility for me.

"There was no stopping Chris. It was like Robert Downey Jr. is today. They're going to do their own thing no matter what the consequences might be."

Spade and his writing partner Fred Wolf are already working on the screenplay for their next film Pooka Pete.

"Pooka is this '60s guy who gets swallowed by a whale. It's our version of Cast Away. We actually had the idea before Cast Away came out but now we're tailoring it with specific comic references to Cast Away. It will be pretty obvious that I'm spoofing Tom Hanks."

Spade has the distinction of having dated Lara Flynn Boyle before the actress started her on-again/off-again affair with Jack Nicholson. "I don't know if you can call it a relationship. Lara and I went to a few premiers together and ended up as a celebrity couple in the gossip mags. Let me tell you, when David Spade makes it into a supermarket publication it's a mighty slow news week."


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