Hal Harry Magee Sparks III (born September 25, 1969) is an American actor, comedian, musician and television personality. He is known for his contributions to VH1, hosting E!'s Talk Soup, and the role of Michael Novotny on the American television series Queer as Folk.
Sparks was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but grew up in the small community of Peaks Mill, Kentucky. He started Boy Scouts at age 7 and karate at age 8, and filled his childhood between video games, movies, and comedy albums since the nearest TV was a mile from where he lived.
When he was 14 years old, he moved to the Chicago area and enrolled at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, where he fortuitously entered the theater department. Thanks to an influential teacher named Mrs. Adams, he was able to cultivate his natural talent and boundless energy into marketable skill. Despite some initial opposition by his dad, by 15 he began performing standup comedy and by 17 he won the title of "Chicago's Funniest Teenager" from the Chicago Sun-Times.
He also studied with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago as a teenager.
While still in high school, he became the host of the short-run Saturday game show Treasure Mall, just months shy of his 19th birthday. Upon graduation, Sparks packed all his things in a car and headed for Los Angeles to begin his career in earnest. After ten long years of paying his dues, he got his major TV break when he was hired to host Talk Soup in 1999.
He would go on to independently produce his first standup comedy DVD "Escape from Halcatraz" in 2008.
Extremely well-read and versed on politics, Sparks is a regular guest on such programs as CNN's Your $$$$$, The Joy Behar Show and The View, when he's not hosting his own weekly progressive radio show. He's also participated in the Progressive Voices Cruise in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 he joined Stephanie Miller and John Fugelsang for the wildly successful Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour in various cities across the country. This tour topped more than a million dollars in ticket sales while raising money for local progressive causes.
Sparks appears as a regular guest and fill-in host on the national Stephanie Miller Radio Show, providing three hours of commentary and humor on Wednesday mornings. The program is known as "Hump Days with Hal", and is broadcast weekly from his official U-stream channel.
He continued this free "behind the scenes" U-stream show for his listeners and fans in June 2010 he got his own radio program on Chicago's Progressive Talk as host of The Hal Sparks Radio Program (megaworldwide), which broadcasts between 11am and 1pm each Saturday.
Sparks had his screen debut on the television movie Frog, starring Shelley Duvall, Elliott Gould and Scott Grimes in 1987. Over the following decades he would go on to appear in several types of TV roles, which included host of Talk Soup in 1999.
Sparks became the United States' youngest game show emcee in 1988 when he hosted the short-lived, syndicated game show, Treasure Mall.
He also participated on GSN's Extreme Dodgeball as captain of the Chicago Hitmen team.
He provided the voice of the computer named "Mr. Q" on the U.S television adaptation of 20Q, which aired on the Game Show Network (GSN) in 2009.
Sparks was one of five celebrities to appear in the first episode of VH1's Celebrity Paranormal Project. He has also been a regular commentator on several VH1's series, including the following:
I Love the '70s,
I Love the '80s,
I Love the '80s Strikes Back,
I Love the '80s 3-D,
I Love the '90s,
I Love the '90s: Part Deux,
I Love the Holidays,
I Love Toys,
I Love the '70s: Volume II,
I Love VH1 Talking Head Clip Show Reviews,
I Love the New Millennium,
100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs,
Black to the Future,
TV starring roles
Sparks was a regular cast member of the breakthrough Showtime television series, Queer As Folk, an American adaptation of the UK series written by Russell T Davies. According to the IMDb trivia for the American version of the show, The Los Angeles Times had predicted that an American "Queer as Folk" would be a complete "disaster", but the series lasted five seasons. Sparks appeared in every episode in the television program in the role of Michael Novotny.
In 2007 Sparks became the voice of the lead character in the animated series for children, Tak & the Power of Juju for Nickelodeon, which ran for twelve episodes between 2007 and 2008.
In 2009 Sparks recorded his first Showtime comedy special Charmageddon in front of a standing room only crowd at the OC Pavilion in Santa Ana, California. The special aired in 2010, and was released on DVD.
In 2011 Sparks was cast as Donald Davenport, one of the lead characters of a new Disney pilot Lab Rats. Variety reported on July 12, 2011 that the series was ordered by Disney for a 2012 premiere.
TV Guest Appearances
Sparks had made appearances on various television programs from as early as 1994, when he played a long-haired skateboarder on the fourteenth episode of the first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. In 1995 he appeared in the "Gentle Horse" episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. From 2000 through 2006, he appeared in Martial Law, Frasier, One on One, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Las Vegas.
He appeared as himself in the video "Beat It," the Michael Jackson cover, by Fall Out Boy, and voiced a cameo on Robot Chicken.
In 2006, Sparks competed for the charity Habitat for Humanity on the Fox celebrity competition Celebrity Duets. He performed with such musical legends as Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, Wynonna Judd, Dennis DeYoung, Dee Snider and Sebastian Bach. He made it to the finale along with Lucy Lawless and Alfonso Ribeiro, and came in third in the series.
In 2007, Sparks was cast as the host for the WB reality series Survival of the Richest, where wealthy young adults were paired with those young adults with massive debts to complete challenges together and work as a team.
Also in 2007 Sparks joined Roseanne to judge Nick at Night's search for America's Funniest Mom.
Sparks was a contestant on the 2008 VH1 celeb-reality series Celebracadabra, where the celebrities vie to out-perform each other with magic they have learned from their experienced coaches. Other celebrity contestants competing included Ant, Lisa Ann Walter, Carnie Wilson, Christopher "Kid" Reid, Kimberly Wyatt, and C. Thomas Howell. Howell was the winner, with Sparks taking second place.
His first breakout role in a mainstream movie was in the 2000 cult favorite Dude, Where's My Car?, as Zoltan, the bubble-wrapped leader of a clan of nerds obsessed with outer space. In a 2009 interview with We Are Movie Geeks, he confirmed he created the iconic hand gesture in a "Z" formation.
Sparks has appeared in other films, including Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star and Spider-Man 2, where he had a memorable cameo as the elevator passenger who enjoys an awkward but funny moment with Spider-Man. He also appeared in the opening scene of the 2009 Mike Judge film Extract, as one of the guitar salesmen scammed out of a guitar by the con-woman played by Mila Kunis.
In 2004 he starred as Deputy Dale in the independently produced Lightning Bug, which was written and directed by Robert Hall, who was an original band mate in Hal's hard rock band Zero 1.
In addition to acting, Sparks is also the lead singer and guitarist for a rock band, ZERO 1 (previously called The Hal Sparks Band). At the start, the band consisted of Hal himself, his friend Rob Hall on bass and Hal's cousin Miles Loretta on drums. Their self-titled debut album was released in December 2006 and produced by King's X's frontman DUg Pinnick. The album is available through iTunes and on Sparks' official website.
In 2007, both Sparks and Loretta from Zero 1 participated on DUg's solo project Strum Sum Up.
The band now has a new lineup consisting of Hal Sparks (lead vocals and guitar), Brian Crow (guitar and backup vocals), Bumper Renga (bass and backup vocals) and Lance Tamanaha (drums and backup vocals). They signed with the record label "rocket science" and have a new album on the way called "The sacred nothing". Also expected to debut is the band's first video for the single "American Psycho," which was directed by Adrienne Wanyo and filmed on location at the Houdini Mansion.
Hal's musical experience paid off as a contestant in the first season of Celebrity Duets. He often joins the Los Angeles cover band Steel Panther to sing classic 80s metal tunes, such as the Skid Row hit "Youth Gone Wild".
Hal treats his worldwide Zero 1 fans to exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of band rehearsals, courtesy of his U-stream channel. In addition the band has played such famous venues as The Viper Room, The Knitting Factory, The Key Club and The Whiskey A Go Go.
In 2011 Sparks began touring the US with John Fugelsang and Stephanie Miller as part of the Sexy Liberal Comedy Tour.
Sparks is an outspoken activist who regularly participates in charitable events for organizations like AIDS Walk, Farm Sanctuary, the Lilli Claire Foundation, Imagine a Cure and the Marijuana Policy Project.
In 2010 Sparks used his CPR skills to help resuscitate an unconscious, elderly man at the Los Angeles International Airport. He was aided by Katrina Onyett, another passenger who happened to be nearby when the man collapsed.
In May 2011, Sparks announced he became a first-time dad with the arrival of his son, Camden Harrison Sparks, whom he is co-parenting with Camden's mother, Shelley Alters. They made the announcement during a special Ustream broadcast on Father's Day.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman in episode "Witness" (1994) as Skateboarder,
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman in episode "Indian Agent" (1995) as Gentle Horse,
Cheap Theatrix (1998),
Talk Soup as host (1999-2000),
Martial Law in episode "No Fare" (2000) as Ellroy Nelson,
Queer As Folk (2000-2005) as Michael Novotny,
Rendez-View in episodes "She Loves Him, Loves Him Not" (2001) and "Belgian Boy Toy" (2002) as a guest host,
One on One in episodes "Unemployment Up, Pride Down" (2002) and "I Believe I Can Fly: Part 2" (2002) as Danny Davis Jr.,
Frasier in episode "Door Jam" (2003) as Receptionist,
Extreme Dodgeball (2004) as a player for Chicago Hitmen,
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in episode "Dog Eat Dog" (2005) as Digger James,
Video Game Vixens (2005) as host,
Las Vegas in "Cash Springs Eternal" (2006),
Survival of the Richest (2006) host,
Celebrity Duets (2006) Contestant, third runner up,
Celebrity Paranormal Project (2006) in episode "Waverly Hills Sanatorium",
Tak and the Power of Juju (2007) voice of "Tak" and Really, Really Revolting Juju,
America's Funniest Mom 3 (2007) himself/judge,
Rock Band 2: The Stars (2008) guest star,
Celebracadabra (Reality Show) (2008) as himself, first runner up,
20Q (2009) co-host, voice of computer,
The Tester (2010) Judge in Sony PlayStation Series,
Web Soup special guest appearance with Chris Hardwick,
Hal Sparks: Charmageddon Stand-up special,
Lab Rats (2012 TV series) as Donald Davenport,
Made for television
Frog (1987) as Jim,
Signs and Wonders (1995) as Rocker 2,
Bleacher Bums (2002) as Richie,
Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989) as Lance,
Invader (1996) as Fort Irwin Defense Command (voice),
Lost & Found (1999) as DJ,
Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) as Zoltan - Cult Leader,
Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001) as School Fish #1 (voice),
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003) as Publisher,
Spider-Man 2 (2004) as Elevator Passenger,
Lightning Bug (2004) as Deputy Dale,
Denial (2006) (executive producer),
The House That Jack Built (2007) as Dominic,
Dead Space: Downfall (2008) as Ramirez,
Extract (2009) as Guitar Salesman #1,
. Donald Davenport (Lab Rats) (2012)
Beat It (Fall Out Boy Cover) Music Video (2008) as himself