Hal “Chickie” Spear, a stand-up comedian and TV writer who penned jokes for Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, Howie Mandel, Richard Jeni and others, died from a heart attack Monday in Las Vegas. Spear, born Hal Saperstein and raised in Merrick, NY, was in his late 40s.
Spear was working the road — or in his case, the high seas — as recently as last weekend, aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas, where fellow comedian Michael Dean Ester posted a photo on Facebook of the duo from March 9 and wrote: “What did we talk about all week? We wondered aloud what we were going to do next with our lives. Hal, I am so sorry. You’ve inspired me to make the most of every moment. I’ll do it in your honor. Be at peace. I pray I’ll see you again and we’ll make ’em laugh together.”
Spear’s most recent video contribution to his YouTube page, uploaded in November 2012, just so happens to have featured a bit performed on a Carnival Cruise Line called “Myron: The Zombie Comic, Dead in Concert.”
Hal Saperstein grew up in Long Island during the 1970s, and after taking the stage name Hal Spear in the early 1980s, accumulated a great deal of TV credits, both in front of and behind the cameras. Chickie wrote for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, The Howie Mandel Show, and comedians such as Richard Jeni, who thanked him on two of his specials.
Here is Spear in a 1989 clip from the series, An Evening at the Improv, in which he jokes about fake IDs and other facets of bar-hopping.
His bio also credits him with appearances on Comedy Showcase with Louie Anderson, Stand Up Spotlight with Rosie O’Donnell, Fox’s The Late Show with Joan Rivers, A&E’s Caroline’s Comedy Hour, Comedy Central’s Stand-Up Stand-Up, MTV’s Half Hour Comedy Hour, George Schlatter’s Comedy Club, Fox’s Comic Strip Live and more. Spear also co-authored a novel in 2009, “Hitchcocked,” with The Substitute screenwriter Rocco Simonelli.
Several big-name comedians Spear worked with over the years expressed their condolences on Tuesday via Twitter, Facebook and other less-social media.
Arsenio Hall wrote on Twitter @ArsenioHall: “Funny-men lost a brother today. Standup and writer HAL SPEAR passed. A nice guy! He was one of the pens beneath my wings in the 90’s. #RIP”
Rosie O’Donnell wrote @Rosie: “Chicky bubbie – Hal Spear – we started doing clubs when we were 16 – he died of a heart attack Monday night – hard to believe … RIP”
@howiemandel: “R.I.P. Hal spear. Much more than just the pickle. I’ll miss you buddy”
From @Fred_Stoller: “RIP Hal Spear, a NYC 80’s comedy club comrade.”
Bobby Collins @bobbycollins: “The comedy community lost a really good man … Hal Spear , a Long Island comedian , make em laugh buddy … See you there ……”
To which Judd Apatow replied: “That is so sad. Hal was one of the nicest people I have ever met. When I started doing stand up on LI he was kind&hilarious.”
Here is an unaired remote piece Hal Spear filed for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in which Spear tried out his jokes with unsuspecting people on the street and in their businesses. Roll the clip.
And this is his demo reel from 2009, culled from his live act then at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Funeral arrangements will be updated here accordingly if/when applicable. Our condolences to Hal’s friends and loved ones.