Who could turn down a personal request from Ziggy Stardust? David Spade, apparently.
On the latest episode of Fly on the Wall, his podcast with Dana Carvey (recorded before the SAG-AFTRA strike), Spade revealed that David Bowie once asked if they could swap roles in a Saturday Night Live sketch, but the Joe Dirt star refused to give up the funnier character.
The former SNL cast member recalled that he'd written a sketch for an episode in which Bowie was the musical guest with Tin Machine that would have appeared in the Nov. 23, 1991 installment, hosted by an 11-year-old Macaulay Culkin. Spade imagined himself as a receptionist character that "stops you because he thinks they're better than you" and included a cameo in which Bowie would play himself.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Dave Benett/Getty David Spade; David Bowie
The legendary musician was not at the meeting where the sketch was pitched, but when Spade got to work the next day he had a message waiting for him: to call Bowie at his hotel "as soon as possible."
"And so I called him and he answers and it's f---ing Bowie," Spade said. "And he's like, 'This [sketch] is so f---ing funny. This is exactly my life and these people I see.' And he goes, 'One tweak: Can I play the receptionist? That's the funnier part.'"
Spade said Bowie argued that playing himself was boring because "everyone's seen that." Instead, he suggested that he should play the receptionist character and Spade could play Bowie. Spade declined, explaining that he hoped the receptionist could turn into his recurring character on the show. Bowie brilliantly countered by asking what if the sketch never gets on the show in the first place.
"I'm like, 'God, how do you know this show this well?'" Spade remembered thinking. "It's so true. What if it doesn't get on? I'm f---ing blowing it. He's like, 'It'll get on if I do it.'"
Alan Singer/NBCU David Bowie performing on 'SNL' in 1991
Spade said he was a bit surprised he was able to stand up for himself when he refused the singer's request. He maintained that Bowie, who died in 2016, was "not rude" but perhaps the rocker was right, as the sketch ended up not getting picked to run on the live show — and Spade did not appear in anything else in that episode either.
"The rest of the week I wasn't in the show and I was like, 'F---,'" he recalled.
But the comic said things still ended on a good note, sharing that Bowie approached him during the episode's goodnights and said, "Hey, sorry, man, I get what was going on and I shouldn't have been a little chilly about it."
Spade did wind up playing a sassy receptionist who worked for Dick Clark Productions in the following episode, a character that recurred twice more during his time on the show. He also played a reminiscent character on the NBC sitcom Just Shoot Me. So standing up to a rock star under pressure may sometimes be the right move.
Listen to the full episode of Fly on the Wall, with special guest Will Forte, below.
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