The ''Just Shoot Me'' star mines his rotten childhood for fun and profit

By Liane Bonin
September 13, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
Roxanne Lowit

Move over, Simpsons. A new dysfunctional cartoon series is coming to network TV. This January, NBC will launch ”Sammy,” an animated series created by ”Just Shoot Me” star David Spade. The mid-season replacement follows a young sitcom star whose deadbeat dad, Sammy, returns home after five years away to sponge up cash and other perks of his son’s newfound fame.

If the plotlines seem disturbingly realistic, they should. ”It’s kind of what happened to me,” says Spade, who was 6 when his father — also named Sammy — abandoned the family. ”When I got older and was doing alright, it became easier for me to be around my dad. But as a kid, it was usually about bitching, ‘Where have you been? Where’s the alimony? Why haven’t you taken care of Mom?’ And only later did I try to make the best of it.”

Making the best of it for Spade now means abusing his father on national television. One story line, for example, recounts how the senior Spade skipped out on a planned visit with his three sons after he saw the shabby clothing they were wearing and became embarrassed by what he called his ”pathetic” offspring. ”He actually likes [the show] for some reason,” says the 34-year-old actor. ”I think he just likes the fun of being part of it. But some of the material is 20 years of payback.”

And payback can be a bitch. ”It’s painful, sure,” says the snarky ”SNL” alum, ”but the more I talk about this stuff, it’s almost okay. The one thing I can get out of this is I can laugh about it, and that’s probably healthy in a weird way. It’s better than going around being angry and bitter about it secretly. I’d rather do it over the airwaves.” Hey, it worked for Howard Stern, didn’t it?