Drinker with a Standup Problem
BY PAUL A. LEONE
"I wish it was drinking-related, but it wasn't," comedian Dave Attell joked apologetically after calling almost an hour late for his scheduled interview. Yeah, right, Dave... sure. He went on to explain that, after a long stint on the road, he'd forgotten to reset his clocks for daylight-saving time. Completely understandable -- but when your day job starts long after most of the working world has hit the hay, and it involves bar-hopping, binge-drinking, and general debauchery, you're bound to raise a little suspicion when making claims about your sobriety.
The term job is, of course, used very loosely when referring to Attell's gig on the Comedy Central hit Insomniac with Dave Attell. Part travelogue and part late-night alcoholic case study, Insomniac was an immediate success when it debuted in 2001. Instantly, Attell was the envy of every drunkard and frat boy who's ever held ill-conceived illusions of alcohol-induced comic grandeur. But those fantasies quickly fade with the realization that Attell's ability to instantly deliver deadpan, self-deprecating humor in his signature, nasal New York-accented voice is unmatched.
The show was the perfect showcase for the 15-year standup veteran, who hits the road this week on a four-month comedy tour that swings into Fort Lauderdale for two shows on Saturday. While holding a cigarette in one hand and a Jägermeister shot in the other, with a beer chaser close at hand, Attell manages to keep the bar banter sharp, witty, and utterly hilarious. On stage, Attell offers much of the same, with an edgy act that pokes fun at women, the audience, and especially himself. "My crowd tends to drink a lot," Attell says. "It's a good time. My crowd likes to get into it. I like to just sit back and let it roll." But if you're hoping to catch Attell out on the town after the show, you might be disappointed. The fourth season was reportedly Insomniac's last. "I'm working on something with Fox," he says.
Fortunately for his fans, though, the Fort Lauderdale date will be the fourth stop on "Dave Attell: The Insomniac Tour." The 35-city tour eventually concludes with shows in Las Vegas, as Attell and opening-act Sean Rouse meet up with fellow comics Dane Cook, Greg Giraldo, and Doug Stanhope, all scheduled to be turned into a feature-length concert film debuting on Comedy Central in October. Until then, Attell and Rouse will travel from city to city on a specially outfitted Insomniac tour bus. "It kind of reminds me of a special-needs bus -- just pimped up," Attell says. "We'll have a couple of cases of beer and some of those Crank Yankers puppets. So we'll get drunk and mess with the puppets."
newtimesbpb.com | originally published: April 21, 2005
Insomniac Dave Attell has the jitters
By TIM GHIANNI
But he'll be all right, as long as people are laughing at him
Dave Attell is sleepy, perhaps a tad hung-over . . . and nervous.
Sleepy because he got just two hours of sleep the night before. ''I got to bed at 4:30 and got up at about 6:30 to do some radio interviews,'' he says. ''And,'' he admits, ''there was whiskey involved.''
Attell, who drank into the night with pals at the Comedy Cafe, is calling to plug the first stop in his Comedy Central Live Presents Dave Attell: The Insomniac Tour, which slides into War Memorial this evening.
After making gentle fun of Comedy Central's wordy tour name — ''they are a little too needy'' — this 40-year-old comic admits to jitters.
''It's nerve-racking,'' he says, when noting that this is the first time he's been ''the name'' carrying a theater tour.
A guy who relishes close contact with his crowd, he admits a higher comfort level at spots such as Zanies, a regular stop in his club-heavy past. But theater touring isn't alien to him. While this is his first big stage show here in Nashville, he has done a previous theater tour, but that was loaded with stars, including Lewis Black and recently deceased pal Mitch Hedberg.
This time out, Attell is the star. Sure, there are opening acts, including a local comic —''there are a lot of funny people in Nashville'' — and ''this kid Sean Rouse from Texas.''
But Attell's name is the one being used to hawk tickets.
His star-power can be traced directly to Comedy Central's Insomniac With Dave Attell, his night-crawling travelogue in which he pursues after-hours fun and oddities. He's visited more than 40 cities, including Nashville, during the five years of tapings.
This trip to Music City finds him a little fearful. ''I love Nashville and love to play there. The problem is that there always is so much going on, not just country music, but so much that you have to compete with. There's always some sort of festival or sporting event going on.''
His fears will be calmed only by results at the box office.
''I better be selling some tickets. . . . This is the first stop in the 30 Days Till Rehab Tour.''
When corrected that the tour is being subtitled No Sleep Till Vegas, he responds: ''I gotta lot of names for it.''
He's hoping Nashville will provide a fast start, ticket-wise, for the tour that ends in Las Vegas. Attell's been working the phones ''hoping to get the word out on my own. And Comedy Central's been running a lot of promos.''
''It's a little rough. It's an adult show. If people are into that, they ought to come down.''
An example of his style of humor is the title of his new DVD, which he says he will be selling while on the tour. ''It's called Hey, Your Mouth's Not Pregnant. Title says it all there.''
Another way to describe it for a Nashville audience: ''I'm more David Allan Coe than one of those really sappy country singers.''
Speaking of adult material, he's also been at work on a TV pilot for Fox. ''It's a sitcom that they were doing and they put me in a small part. It's not the Dave Attell Show or anything.''
If the show is picked up, he'll get a recurring role . . . maybe.
''We'll see. It's the pilot. They could recast it with two kids.''
And kids in a show involving Attell wouldn't work. ''Nah, I wouldn't want to be in it. This show's for adults.''
Comedians such as Attell may spring off into sitcoms and films. They may do slightly off-color travelogues. But the first priority always is stand-up. And with it comes the comic's biggest nightmare: an audience that doesn't laugh.
''All the time, it still happens,'' he says. ''It could happen any time. You hope you are prepared for it. The worst thing that can happen is nothing. The people just sitting there blankly, like you are speaking another language.
''The second worst thing is if no one shows up at all.''
But if no one laughs, well ''you have to plow through until you activate the audience. You have to have a lot of material in your back pocket. . . . Whether it's a club or a theater, you want to do a funny show for the people. Even in a tent, you'd want to rock out with the people.''
For a moment, he gets reflective. He is, he says, the true insomniac of the hit TV's title. The chosen profession would seem to fit the Queens native, who grew up on Long Island before settling into the comedy world of Manhattan.
''The beauty of being a comic is you are supposed to sleep during the day and work at night.''
There are, of course, many days like this, when he has to get up to peddle tickets. ''Sometimes I write a couple of checks out of the sleep bank,'' he says.
Hopes are to catch up in a day or two. Often, it doesn't happen. And after so much sleep deprivation, he begins to act, well, impaired.
''People think I'm drunk, because I'm a drinker, but really it's because I haven't slept.
''Well, that's my story and I'm staying with it.''
What does he have to say to folks hungering for humor tonight? ''My word of advice is Nashville is the first town for a reason: Because you guys party and you are fun, so we want to start the tour out right with a cool town. And don't leave me hanging.''
Dave Attell: The Insomniac Tour rolls into War Memorial Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. today. Tickets are $29.50 via Ticketmaster (255-9600 or www.ticketmaster.com).
No rest for the wicked or the weary . . . or the Insomniac.
Comedian Dave Attell does a show here tonight for the first stop on his Comedy Central Live Presents Dave Attell: The Insomniac Tour. Of course, it's named for the Comedy Central show Insomniac With Dave Attell, his travelogue of after-hours experiences.
There were 40 half-hour shows produced in the first four years of the program, before shifting to hour-long quarterly shows a year ago.
Renata Luczak, a Comedy Central publicist, says ''as of now, the network still wants to do Insomniac, but there are no immediate plans right now because he is on tour. It is in repeats.''
At tour's end in Las Vegas, Attell will team with Comedy Central stars Dane Cook and Greg Giraldo for a concert film that will premiere on the network in October.
Definitely aimed for adult audiences, Comedy Central has issued two volumes of The Best of Insomniac Uncensored on DVD as well as a stand-up album called Dave Attell, Skanks for the Memories. The title of his new DVD is Hey, Your Mouth's Not Pregnant.
The New York Times says ''Insomniac is a doubly rare beast, a comedy without rancor and a travel show about the virtues of the American underdog.''
LA Times goes it one better: ''Quite simply, it's foul-mouthed, sophomoric, tawdry and incredibly fun, combining the elements of travelogue, documentary and boys' or girls' night out.''