David Spade is back on Comedy Central, this time in the 11:30 p.m. slot every Monday through Thursday. If you squint, “Lights Out” vaguely resembles “The Showbiz Show,” Spade’s enjoyable mid-aughts effort to give Hollywood the “Daily Show” treatment, especially with its pop cultural bent. But the new program’s relaxed format also provides Spade and his guests some welcome room to riff, giving viewers ample reason to stay tuned. (Like Conan, Spade also decided to ditch the desk.)
Monday’s premiere started with Spade, Solo cup in hand, punching through a stream of newsy one-liners on everything from Jeffrey Epstein to Caitlyn Jenner. “The president of Planned Parenthood was forced out after eight months,” Spade said. “That joke kind of writes itself.” Tuesday’s episode followed suit.
Spade’s panel on Monday—Whitney Cummings, Neal Brennan, and Erik Griffin—heckled while he read from the teleprompter, which created the kind of casual, anything-can-happen vibe you won’t get from a Hannah Gadsby routine. A new panel kept the party going on Tuesday as well.
Seated in plush yellow armchairs — the set looks like it was sponsored by West Elm — the panel shuffled between topical conversations ranging from the Vegas grasshopper infestation to Armie Hammer’s toe-sucking video. A few of the canned quips were lame, but the comedians played off each other well, and the humor was refreshingly edgy. Theo Von had some particularly wild moments on Tuesday’s show.
Spade’s penultimate block on Monday was a genuinely hilarious taped stunt with Jeff Ross, which kept the episode on a good pace. Amy Schumer made an appearance via video chat on Tuesday, ending her bit with a surprise cameo from another worthy guest. The many contributions from Spade’s talented friends certainly haven’t hurt.
“Lights Out” relies on some gimmicky bits around commercial breaks—like Spade narrating Instagram clips—that feel awkward for the irreverent host. They might be better phased out over time.
At the end of the day, Spade is a great comedian with little fear of burgeoning cancel culture. You actually get the impression he’s amused by it. Between two nights of Caitlyn Jenner jokes, and a sarcastic quip about “triggering” a panelist, Spade doesn’t seem to be gunning for a job hosting the Oscars. The jokes are well-written, and Spade’s characteristically dry and apathetic delivery shines in conversation. Consequently, conversation is where “Lights Out” thrives as well.
In that respect, the show is poised to evolve into a reliably comfortable space for talented comedians to freewheel—and four nights a week, at that. With Spade’s veteran direction, it could quickly become a nightly go-to for comedy fans, eager to watch professionals inject some levity into the news cycle at a time public figures are increasingly afraid to tell jokes about Hollywood and politics with any bite.