Max Sparber was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1969 and adopted after 11 weeks by a middle class Jewish family in the St. Louis Park suburb of Minneapolis. As a child, he grew up a few blocks from where the Coen brothers had grown up, and was baby-sat by both Dan and Matthew Wilson, both later of the band Trip Shakespeare (as well as Semisonic, in the case of Dan Wilson). Sparber's family had some links to the world of entertainment - his mother is cousins with Judd Hirsch, while his father is a distant cousin of Academy Award-winning composer Lalo Schifrin.
Sparber attended public schools throughout his childhood, but for a tw-year stint at a shirt-lived Jewish high school. He attended the University of Minnesota, from which he never attained his degree (at first in Jewish Studies, later in theater). In his early twenties, Sparber moved to Los Angeles. Quickly broke and jobless, he spent three months in Citrus House, a homeless shelter run by the Gay and Lesbian Community Service