He's not a stand-up comic, but sometimes he tells jokes. Nor is he a musician, but sometimes he plays rock music in front of people. Not an actor, but he pretends to be someone he isn't. Hal Sparks is an artist, an emissary of human emotion, and these are some things that he does.
"They're not jobs," Sparks said. "There are jobs that come up that allow me to express certain elements of myself, but there's no point in my life where I will cease to do them as activities because they don't separate from who I am as a person."
In comedy, music and film, Hal Sparks' jobs have been many. His searching dissection of various aspects of life oxymoronic in the 2010 standup special, Charmageddon, was highly regarded for its sharp wit and audacious poignancy. Sparks also fronts a classic rock band, Zero 1, which recently wrapped up the first leg of a national tour to promote the release of its sophomore album, The Sacred Nothing. On screen, he did the gay thing as "Michael" in the Showtime series "Queer as Folk," commanded legions of bubble-wrapped alien cultists as "Zoltan" in Dude, Where's My Car? and hated on your childhood in VH1's irreverently nostalgic "I Love the ..." series.
"They're completely incomparable," Sparks said of his multidisciplinary creative outlets. "It's like, ‘What do you like better, eating or breathing? You might like one better than the other right now, but stop doing the other one for a little bit and see how it feels.'"
Dr. Grins, Grand Rapids
June 28-30, show times at 8, 9 and 10:30 p.m.
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For Sparks, unpacking emotion is the essence of artistic expression. Music unleashes the extremes of primal, purely unadulterated personal emotion. Acting accomplishes similar goals, but the emotion is artificially directed to articulate the experience of a character, he said.
As a stand-up comic, he seems like an angry person. He's not. Stand-up is the context in which he channels the annoying, frustrating, absurd aspects of human emotion.
"There is no greater art form for singular expression today than stand-up," Sparks said. "It's a philosophical outlet that only has one caveat, one limitation: that it must be funny. As long as I can make you laugh, I can say anything. That means a lot."
A student of comedy in the classical sense, Sparks' true gift is an insightful aptitude for fleshing out the alternative, unconsidered perspective of an issue. He deliberately seeks unaddressed or misrepresented topics to confront as an end in itself -- simply because it hasn't been done.
This year is already shaping out to be a breakthrough for the seasoned performer. In addition to recording a new stand-up special at Mayne Stage in Chicago this fall, and a second season of his Disney television series "Lab Rats," he taught himself to speak Chinese and will begin work on two television series in China. That brings the count to two new albums, a three-part nationwide tour, two foreign television series and one domestic.