David Spade Is Going Through the Motions in Nothing Personal

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David Spade Is Going Through the Motions in <i>Nothing Personal</i>

A celebrity comedian’s first Netflix special has become a late-in-life rite of passage now, a victory lap for those rare few who make millions in a field where few keep afloat, but to what end? More money? Fame? An ego boost? To appease a clamoring fan base? That unanswered question is part of what makes David Spade’s first Netflix special, Nothing Personal, feel so aimless.

Filmed at Minneapolis’ Pantages Theatre, Spade almost immediately jumps into COVID material. It’s to be expected at this point, but it honestly feels like he’s ticking off boxes required for any older white man’s comedy set in 2022. Coronavirus bit? Check. Unnecessary joke about a trans woman (including dead naming her)? Check. Dick pic chat? Check. #MeToo mention? Check.

Beyond that, Spade shoehorns in topical references in order to appear relevant, but the end result feels more like a search and replace operation gone awry. Gone are references to One Direction, add in something about Squid Game or clickbait instead. He doesn’t try to be too 2022 though, keeping in a racist penis joke and impression of a Mexican man. Sigh.

The tiredness of his subject matter aside, Spade is undeniably a professional. His natural stage presence, the way he easily flits from one joke to the next, his casual yet well-crafted storytelling—this is all the product of years of practice. The Saturday Night Live alum’s physical comedy remains on point, as does his excessive use of sound effects. Even half-baked bits come to life thanks to Spade’s impressions of a race announcer as the vaccines were released or a deflating erection aid.

Spade also employs his characteristic hyperbole, taking any joke he can to the nth degree. Whether he’s talking about a woman’s wingspan or the stray hair he found in his IHOP eggs, he earns a fair share of laughs through exaggerated observations. The only problem is that when everything is overstated, jokes start to feel a little predictable.

Nothing Personal doesn’t have a particular through line, other than Spade himself. Most of the time that doesn’t matter since he keeps the laughs coming, but during the second half, the special begins to feel a bit long in the tooth. The bits are so scattered and the set so meandering that anything could serve as the finale. It almost comes as a surprise (and a relief) when the credits finally start to roll.

Going through the motions isn’t always a negative when you know the moves well—not that it’s exactly ideal, either. Spade’s Nothing Personal falls into this wishy-washy in-between territory. He’s funny in his first Netflix special, sure, but there’s a staleness hanging about the set that he simply can’t shake off.

Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast and Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.