Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 25, 2006)
Unlike his Saturday Night Live peers such as Chris Rock and Adam Sandler, I never thought of David Spade as a stand-up performer. However, he shows that side of his talent via an HBO special entitled Take the Hit. Shot in his hometown of Phoenix, this special highlights Spade’s trademark sarcasm and snarkiness.
Spade’s routine mixes reflections on his youth and notes on pop culture. In the former category, he looks at his teen years and his problems with girls. Spade also chats about growing up with a rarely-there father and how this affected him.
In the latter area, Spade chats about music and movies. He also relates his thoughts on various subjects such as living in Arizona, going to the zoo, and residing in LA. Spade mixes personal thoughts with elements more related to general culture.
Frankly, the show works best when it focuses on Spade’s childhood. Expect barely muted anger as he gets into these elements. Spade feeds off an obviously less than idyllic youth for his attitude and tone, and when he indulges in those areas, he scores his best moments. These get a little too raunchy and mean at times, but Spade usually mines his pain for humor.
The pop culture stuff works less well, which comes as something of a surprise. Spade scored big points on SNL with his vicious “Hollywood Minute” routines, but he proves much less acerbic here. The best he can do is mock REM’s Michael Stipe for the singer’s continued “woe is me” lyrics despite the band’s success. That’s not particularly fresh or insightful, and these moments don’t go much of anywhere.
The dated nature of Hit doesn’t help. The show was recorded in early 1998, for God’s sake! This doesn’t affect the impact of Spade’s childhood remarks, but it makes his cultural references stale. Notes about Jon-Benet Ramsey and Titanic show their age. Sure, we still remember these events, but they don’t exactly feel fresh eight years later.
Hit comes across well on DVD through a professional and serviceable presentation. It sticks with the basics and doesn’t try to add artificial “spice” to the experience. Spade comes on stage, delivers his act, and that’s it; no backstage nonsense or video effects or anything else to interfere. Occasional crowd shots appear, but those remain minor, which is good. We see Spade mainly in medium or close-up shots, which works well for this kind of experience.
In the end, Take the Hit provides an erratic but generally amusing show. It suffers from cultural irrelevance due to references that were current when it was filmed but dated now. However, there’s enough wit on display to make it enjoyable.