Attell could go from stand-up to sitcom
By Nick A. Zaino III, Globe Correspondent | April 22, 2005
Dave Attell isn't a sitcom kind of guy. He admits he's not really an actor. The off-the-cuff, sometimes scatological sense of humor that made his after-hours travelogue "Insomniac" a hit for Comedy Central isn't exactly prime-time ready. And his look, which he once described as "Andre Agassi with a drinking problem," would seem to doom him to the wacky neighbor category.
But there's more to Attell than the boyishly gruff comic audiences will see Wednesday night at Avalon on Comedy Central's "Insomniac Tour." And if Fox picks up a pilot called "New Car Smell" for its fall schedule, Attell may yet become a sitcom kind of guy.
Attell filmed the pilot earlier this month, playing the boss at a car dealership in a Brooke Shields vehicle directed by "Friends" star David Schwimmer. That's a long way from hanging out with partygoers at bars and sewage-treatment workers on the late shift. "I really thought I was going to get fired every day," he says. "So it's amazing that I got through it on the set of that show."
It's a tentative step for Attell, who says he eschewed network pitches that he play a nanny or a dad in favor of a smaller role to get his feet wet. The writers on "New Car Smell" were familiar with Attell and let him add to scenes to make his dialogue feel more comfortable. But it's still unfamiliar territory for someone who spends most of the year performing in clubs.
"I feel like, being a comic, you're a loner, and the lifestyle suits that," he says. "Being on a sitcom, it's a team player thing. And you have to react more with the other actors. And that's totally new for me, because when I'm up onstage, I can do whatever I want, however I want it."
Attell shines as a club comic. His ability to take some of the shock value out of sex and drugs material and replace it with something a little more abstract lifts him above comics mining the same subjects. (His take on "Girls Gone Wild" videos -- "I like to play it backward, because then it looks like the girls have learned their lesson"). Some of the rowdier crowds only hear the references to sex and drugs, which can make managing them a challenge even for a master like Attell.
"It's obnoxious," he says. "You spend all your time handling the problem child when the good kids are just sitting there rolling their eyes. It's something that I'll always watch out for. But I'll admit it, sometimes I'm looking for it."
Attell is hoping more television work, both as a stand-up and on sitcoms, will help him settle down a little bit. "I've got to start doing normal-people stuff," he says. "I've got to finally move into this apartment that I have, get a girlfriend. All those things. It's been enough road stuff."