Hal Sparks is easy to like. He’s an animated, good looking dude who’s clearly committed to making a room full of comedy goers laugh their asses off. He also appeals to a desirable age group– the folks that appreciate references to the Luck Dragon from The Never-ending Story, or Disturbed’s song “Down with the Sickness,” which may be the most unintentionally hilarious metal song of all time. Hal brings up stuff like this and only the most stoniest of un-stoned stoners would refrain from cracking a smile. After all, relatability is perhaps the cornerstone to well-received stand-up comedy.
That said, Sparks’ latest comedy album, Escape From Halcatraz – now available on iTunes – doesn’t deliver as much as we’d like. Sparks is a visual comedian, and excels in big, showy gestures. He’s what you might call an actor’s comedian, or a comedian’s actor, in that his natural penchant for thespian-ism runs through the blood of his comedy. His stories tend to be very animated and graphic (and that’s a good thing), but he also yells too often and seemingly for little reason– besides, of course, to up the energy of his act. In short, Sparks is the opposite of subtle, so if you’re into nuanced comedy filled with pristine joke writing, Sparks isn’t the man for you.
Some of his jokes work well independent of a larger work (read: comedy album). That evidence is in Sparks’ impressions of AC/DC’s infamous screecher Brian Johnson and his placement of Ozzy Osbourne performing on American Idol.
But a few too many of these bits feel as though they’re missing some basic life force. More frustratingly, Sparks seems to be in a terrible rush to get to the next funny voice or impression or verbal flourish that oftentimes there’s little substance connecting his series of comedic novelty bits.
You can download Hal Sparks’ Escape From Halcatraz at iTunes now.