McGinnis: Hal Sparks to appear at Connxtions May 2Written by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
Hal Sparks is a modern renaissance man. He has such a wealth of experience in so many areas — comedy, acting, music and more — that it’s enough to make anyone envious. And a conversation with him reveals a man who feels compelled to keep many plates spinning at once, for both emotional and professional satisfaction.
His hilarious stand-up is what brings him to Toledo — he’ll be appearing May 2 at Connxtions comedy club. But the length and variety of his resume is incredibly impressive: Actor in several big movies and TV series, including the hit Showtime production “Queer as Folk.” Host and cast member of several reality series. Leads his own heavy metal band, Zero 1. Trained at Second City in Chicago. Regular guest on VH1′s “I Love…” shows. And on, and on.
This kind of diversity is rare in modern entertainment, as Sparks himself admitted in an interview. “You don’t get a lot of chance at variety in Hollywood. They really actively work to not let you do that. It’s far too confusing for publicists and agents to try and fit a well-rounded artist into a category and sell them. So they’d much rather you just do one thing.”
But Sparks treasures his penchant for doing things differently. “I actually love the fact that I really can’t tell where somebody likes my work from when I first meet them. It’s funny when people come up and go, ‘I love the show, your show is so great,’ and I literally have to go, ‘Which one?’”
Sparks clearly looks forward to such questions during his stop in the Glass City, though this isn’t his first experience with the area.
“I’ve been through Toledo as a kid, especially because I have a lot of family in Ohio, like in Cleveland,” he said. “I was born in Cincinnati. So, we’d do a lot of rolling around the state. This is my first time performing in Toledo, though.”
Sparks brings over 20 years of stand-up experience to his show, but to many audiences, he’s probably most famous for his role as Michael Novotny on “Queer as Folk.” The character is far removed from Sparks’s real-life demeanor, which he says occasionally surprises attendees.
“‘Queer as Folk’ fans will show up, expecting to see my character. And when they see my personality, and it’s so diametrically opposed to who he is — and I don’t mean strictly in terms of sexuality, I mean manner and how I talk, how I gesture, and all that — that it’s kind of a shock to their systems on occasion. And it takes about five minutes for them to do a reset, you know.
“But other than that, it really hasn’t effected my stand-up, because it’s a different animal entirely.”
Sparks finds the differences between the many facets of his career crucial to his personal success, and said that everything he does uniquely helps to satisfy him, both creatively and emotionally.
“Stand-up is the honest expression of yourself. Acting is the channeling of emotional truth through another person’s personality. And so, really, they could not be more different,” he stated.
He elaborated that every individual creative endeavor has its own roots in an emotional impulse. His band, for example, “gives me an honest outlet for certain emotions that aren’t appropriate for stand-up. And so, I can use stand-up for what it’s really meant for, which is social commentary and the dealing of momentary irritations that you would experience. I think true rage and true sorrow really don’t belong in stand-up, they don’t work really well there.”
And what can an audience expect out of a Hal Sparks comedy performance?
“The question has always been, is my stand-up more brilliant than funny, or more funny than brilliant? I guess that’s a question they’ll have to answer for themselves,” he joked.
“In all honesty, I’m the kind of performer that I feel like I owe the audience a show. And so, I work hard to deliver a really funny show.”
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.