Hal Sparks

Hal Sparks

Born Hal Harry Magee Sparks in Cincinnati, OH, he lived with his family in Peaks Mill, KY until his early teens. After his parents' divorce, he moved to Chicago to live with his father, where he discovered his talent for getting a laugh from his classmates. With the help of his high school acting coach, he recorded some comedy bits and submitted them to a local radio contest that sought "The Windy City's Funniest Teen." He won the contest, and soon afterwards, began studying with the teenage arm of the famed Second City comedy troupe. Sparks left Chicago immediately after his high school graduation and relocated to Los Angeles, where he began auditioning for acting and comedy jobs. His first on-camera job came in 1987 with the PBS children's feature "Frog;" this was followed by a brief stint as the host of "Treasure Mall" (1988), a syndicated game show for children that put Sparks in the record books as the youngest show host in TV history. Sporadic acting roles in episodic shows followed, as well as bit parts in features, with 1991's "Chopper Chicks in Zombietown" being his first movie. Sparks also worked as an occasional gag writer for established comics, and logged hours of stand-up as a solo act and with his sketch comedy group, Here Comes the Neighborhood.Sparks' big break came in 1999 when he auditioned to replace the much beloved John Henson as the host of E's "Talk Soup," which poked fun at clips and guests that appeared on talk shows. Sparks was popular with the show's devoted audience, and offered a slightly more manic take on the events than his predecessors, which had also included Greg Kinnear. However, Sparks left the show after a year to focus on his acting career. His first post-"Soup" gig was the broad comedy "Dude, Where's My Car?" (2000), in which he played the leader of a cult of space-obsessed misfits. That same year, Sparks landed his most dramatic role to date in "Queer As Folk," the American version of the popular and controversial BBC drama about the lives and loves of several gay men. Over the course of the show's four seasons on Showtime, Sparks' character, Michael Novotny, achieved fame through his own comic book and happiness with a longtime partner, with whom he adopted a son, but struggled with his best friend Brian's accusations of selling out to the heterosexual lifestyle. The show, which was among the most popular of Showtime's original series, earned Sparks some of his best reviews.During his tenure on "Queer as Folk," Sparks became an in-demand guest on several pop culture nostalgia programs, such as "I Love the '70s" (VH1, 2003-) and its numerous spin-offs, as well as a frequent guest on daytime and evening talk shows. Sparks also turned up in supporting roles in theatrical and cable features, including "Bleacher Bums" (2002), "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" (2003) and a memorable cameo in "Spider-Man 2" (2004) as a man who shares an unexpected elevator ride with Tobey Maguire's web-slinger. He also sang in and played guitar for the Los Angeles rock band The Hal Sparks Band, which later changed its name to Zero 7; Sparks' cousin Miles Loretta played drums for the group, while longtime friend and special effects designer Robert Hall provided bass. Hall later tapped Sparks to play a supporting role in his autobiographical indie feature, "Lightning Bug" (2004). Sparks delved into producing features in 2006 with the independent short thriller "Denial" and later with the supernatural horror feature "The House that Jack Built" in 2008. In the meantime, he participated in two celebrity reality series - "Celebrity Paranormal Experiment" (VH1, 2006-), which sent him, Gary Busey, and fellow "Talk Soup" alum Donna D'Errico to an abandoned and reportedly haunted sanitarium - and "Celebrity Duets" (Fox, 2006), which allowed him to show off his vocal skills. Unfortunately, Sparks was eliminated sixth out of eight contestants but impressed in his collaborations with Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, Twisted Sister's Dee Snider, Gladys Knight, and Smokey Robinson. Sparks also began providing the voice of Tak, a teenaged Pacific Islander who can summon magical powers in the CGI cartoon "Tak and the Power of Juju" (Nickelodeon, 2007-).