Queer as Folk
Actor, comedian, producer and writer Hal Sparks is perhaps best known for playing Michael Novotny on the American version of “Queer as Folk” (Showtime, 2000-2005). He also appeared in such films as “Signs and Wonders” (1995, TV), “Dude, Where's My Car,” (2000), “Bleacher Bums” (2001, TV), “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” (2003), “Lightning Bug” (2004), “Spider-Man 2” (2004) and “The House That Jack Built” (2009). A winner of the 1987 “Funniest Teenager in Chicago” contest, Sparks began his comedy career with the famous Second City troupe when he was a teenager. He went on to host the syndicated children's show “Treasure Mall” (1988), but did not achieve real fame until he served as a host of the Emmy award winning “Talk Soup” from 1999 to 2000. Sparks has frequently guest starred in TV sitcoms and participated as a contestant on several celebrity based game shows and reality series. Also a musician, Sparks has a metal band called Zero 1. The band launched their debut album in late 2006.
Currently, Sparks is in a relationship with his girlfriend Samantha. He was also once linked to Stefanie Sherk. He has practiced martial arts since he was a child and has several black belts. He can speak Mandarin Chinese fluently and has traveled to China, Japan, France, England, Mexico, Monaco, Thailand and Canada.
Funniest Teenager in Chicago
Childhood and Family:
Born Hal Harry Magee Sparks III on September 25, 1969, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hal Sparks was raised in Peaks Mill, Kentucky, where he attended Franklin County High School until age 14. After the divorce of his parents, he lived with his father and stepmother in Chicago. Hal was enrolled at the New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois, from 1985 until his graduation in 1989. In 1987, he won a local comedy contest and was named “Funniest Teenager in Chicago.” Soon after, he became a member of the Second City teenage comedy troupe. After his high school graduation, he headed to Los Angeles to find more opportunities.
Hal Sparks had his first taste in front of the camera when he played the role of Jim in the television film “Frog” (PBS, 1987), which was directed by David Grossman and starred Shelley Duvall, Scott Grimes and Elliott Gould. The next year, he landed a hosting gig on “Treasure Mall,” a kids’ syndicated show that ran from June 11 to September 3, 1988. Sparks made the jump to the big screen with “Chrome Hearts” (1989), by Dan Hoskins. He also worked sporadically as a joke writer for noted comics and performed standup as a solo act and with his sketch comedy group, Here Comes the Neighborhood.
Sparks next received guest spots in “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” (1994) and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (episode “Indian Agent,” 1995). He then appeared in the TV movie “Signs and Wonders” (1995), a BBC drama starring James Earl Jones, Prunella Scales and David Warner. He also provided a character’s voice in Mark H. Baker's movie “Invader” (1996), starring Cotter Smith, Deirdre O'Connell and Robert Wisdom, was cast in the TV series “Cheap Theatrix” (1998) and had a role in the romantic comedy “Lost & Found” (1999), which starred David Spade and Sophie Marceau.
Sparks' big beak arrived in 1999 when he was hired to replace John Henson as the host of the show “Talk Soup.” He was successful with fans of the show but decided to leave after a year to concentrate on his acting career. Fellow comedian and actress Aisha Tyler took over his job until the show's demise in 2002.
After playing Ellroy Nelson in an episode of “Martial Law” called “No Fare” (2000), Sparks landed the film role of Zoltan in the comedy “Dude, Where's My Car” (2000), opposite Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Garner, Marla Sokoloff, Kristy Swanson and David Herman. Directed by Danny Leiner and written by Philip Stark, the film was panned by critics but opened at No. 2 at the North American box office.
It was also in 2000 that Sparks scored the role of Michael Novotny on the Showtime series “Queer as Folk,” which was based on the controversial BBC drama of the same name. The show received the 2005 Prism Award for TV Drama Series Multi-Episode Storyline and four Director Guild of Canada Awards. Sparks was on the show from its debut on December 3, 2000, until it ended on August 7, 2005. Costars of the series included Michelle Clunie, Robert Gant, Thea Gill, Gale Harold, Randy Harrison, Scott Lowell, Peter Paige, Chris Potter and Sharon Gless.
During his stint on “Queer as Folk,” Sparks became a sought after guest and appeared on VH1's “I Love the ‘70s” (2003), “I Love the '80s,” “I Love the '80s Strikes Back” (2003), “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” and “I Love the New Millennium.” He also became a frequent guest of talk shows and provided the voice of a fish in “Dr. Dolittle 2” (2001), the sequel to the 1998 Eddy Murphy hit “Dr. Dolittle.” In addition, he played Richie in “Bleacher Bums” (Showtime, 2002), appeared as a publisher in “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” (2003), a comedy film directed by Sam Weisman that starred David Spade and Mary McCormack, portrayed Deputy Dale in the Robert Hall horror film “Lightning Bug” (2004) and made a cameo appearance in the successful sequel “Spider-Man 2” (2004). Sparks also served as a guest host for “Rendez-View” (2 episodes, 2001-2002), had a recurring role on “One on One” (2002, as Danny Davis Jr.) and appeared as a receptionist in an episode of “Frasier” called “Door Jam” (2003).
After the demise of “Queer as Folk,” Sparks guest starred in “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2005, episode “Dog Eat Dog”) and “Las Vegas” (2006, episode “Cash Springs Eternal”). He also hosted “Video Game Vixens” (2005) and appeared in an episode of VH1's reality series “Celebrity Paranormal Project” called “In Sanatorium.” In addition, he was seen on Fox's “Celebrity Duets” and served as executive producer on the short thriller “Denial,” starring Brandon Routh (all 2006). From 2007 to 2008, he voiced the main character of Tak on Nickelodeon's animated series “Tak & the Power of Juju.” He also contributed to the direct to video “Dead Space: Downfall” (2008, as Ramirez), “2009 Game Show Awards” (2009) and “20Q” (2009). 2008 also found him participating in the VH1 reality series “Celebracadabra,” where he was the 1st runner-up.
Sparks next portrayed the role of Tommy in the horror film “The House That Jack Built” (2009), starring Kris Black, Joe Mantegna and Gail O'Grady. He also served as the producer of the film. The same year, he appeared in “Extract,” a comedy film written and directed by Mike Judge that starred Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Dustin Milligan, J.K. Simmons and Ben Affleck. In 2010, Sparks performed in his first Showtime special, “Hal Sparks: Charmageddon.” which was filmed before a standing room only, live audience in Santa Ana, California. He also wrote an episode of the Canadian comedy miniseries “The Ha!ifax Comedy Fest” (2010) and will portray Seth in the short drama “Slip Away” (2011), for director T.M. Scorzafava.
In addition to acting and comedy, Sparks is a musician. A fan of the band Kiss, he began a heavy metal group called Zero 1, with Robert Hall and Miles Loretta. Originally named The Hal Sparks Band, Zero 1 released a self titled debut album in December 2006.