David Spade is revealing the time he turned down David Bowie’s request to switch roles with him for a sketch on Saturday Night Live.
During a recent episode of the Fly on the Wall podcast (recorded before the actors strike), which Spade co-hosts with Dana Carvey, the SNL alum recalled a skit he had written for a November 1991 episode, hosted by Macaulay Culkin with Bowie and Tin Machine as the musical guest.
In the sketch, Spade had himself playing a receptionist that “stops you because he thinks they’re better than you,” and he envisioned Bowie making a cameo as himself. Since the singer-songwriter wasn’t at the pitch meeting to hear the idea, Spade was surprised to get a message asking him to call Bowie at his hotel.
“I called him and he answers and it’s fucking Bowie,” he said. “And he’s like, ‘This [sketch] is so fucking 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.’”
Bowie proceeded to argue that playing himself was “kind of boring” since “everyone’s seen that,” and he suggested that Spade play Bowie and he could play the receptionist. But the comedian said he turned down his request because he was hoping it would turn into a recurring character.
Spade added that he still couldn’t believe he found the courage to shut down the legendary singer, who died in 2016. But he said Bowie was persistent and even countered with, “Well, what if the sketch never gets on [the show.]”
“I’m like, ‘God, how do you know this show this well?’” the Grown Ups actor recalled thinking at the time. “It’s so true. What if it doesn’t get on? I’m fucking blowing it. He’s like, ‘It’ll get on if I do it.’”
Spade noted that the musician wasn’t rude about the situation but just expressed to him that “playing myself isn’t that fun.”
Though he understood where Bowie was coming from, Spade admitted that the whole sketch may have backfired on him because not only did it not get picked up for the show, but the actor also didn’t appear in any other sketches the entire episode. He recalled, “The rest of the week I wasn’t in the show and I was like, ‘Fuck.’”
In the end, there was no bad blood between the pair. The Joe Dirt star added that during the episode’s goodnights, Bowie came up to him and said, “Hey, sorry, man … I get what was going on and I shouldn’t have been a like little chilly about it.”
Spade was a writer and cast member on the NBC sketch comedy series from 1990 to 1996.