Comedy review: Hal Sparks gets existential at Red Rock

Comedian Hal Sparks took his Red Rock audience on an existential journey for part of his January 16 gig at the suburban resort.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Jason Harris

Three stars

Hal Sparks January 16, Red Rock Casino.

Something tells me this was not what the bookers at Red Rock Casino expected for Saturday night’s comedy show, and that probably goes double for the crowd. Who would have guessed that a good night of laughs would involve discussions on the Hadron Collider, the Harvard Longevity Project and whether we actually exist at all.

Hal Sparks, probably best known as a talking head on a variety of pop-culture shows and as a contestant on several celeb-reality shows, took the mostly older audience on an existential journey for part of his gig at Red Rock Casino’s Rocks Lounge. Wearing the obligatory uniform of comics today—jeans and a black V-neck T-shirt—he opened his set discussing how he’s been straight edge his entire life. Never a drink, never a drug, never a reason. “You don't want this brain high. I have walked potheads out of parties with symmantical discussions about nothing. Do you know how hard that is to do with a pothead? ‘Like no dude, no, technically speaking, if you have a fire, you want a waterman. A fireman would be an arsonist. Where you going? Wait, no, come back.’"

That bit’s a good example of a promising setup with a limp finish, something that happened too often during Sparks’ set. After telling the crowd if he has one message to offer them, “It’s f*ck old people,” he went on to give many examples for why he feels this way. Many examples. Like, over half of his hour-long set was given over to crapping on old people.

Sparks, the former host of E’s The Soup, excels in vocal and physical character work. He’s clearly intelligent, but would do well to find a partner to help edit his stuff. While his description of an old man was full of detail, for instance, sometimes tagging a joke 10 times instead of chopping it down to the best three undercuts the power of the bit.

While Sparks’ final 10 minutes didn’t garner big laughs, I appreciated the originality of this work and I hope he goes further in this direction in the future. Taking on existence is no easy task, and I don’t think he ever has to worry about other comics doing similar jokes. Moore’s Law, Cern and his walk-off joke—wondering if we’re truly conscious or if just part of the consciousness of space explorers passing time as they seek new inhabitable planets—don’t seem like topics others intend to poach.

They’re all worth exploring, but the answer I’m still reaching for is, “Was he actually funny?”

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