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Attell holds his own among rowdy fans
Saturday, May 07, 2005
By Nicolas Stephenson
Special to the Gazette

Comedy Central's "Insomniac With Dave Attell" worked for four seasons because Attell was able to find the strangest, often dirtiest, and always most-ignored parts of each city he visited. Sure, there were plenty of drunken bar patrons who just wanted to feed the comedian drink after drink, but Attell himself said in an interview with the Gazette last month that he cut most of that footage out. In the end, it was his celebrity status with this crowd that made the show impossible to produce, and after Thursday night's show at Kalamazoo's State Theatre, one has to wonder if Attell worries about his career succumbing to the same dangers.

As a comedian, Attell was fantastic. His jokes were filthy, but he would manage to personify something in the punch line that would leave one thinking, "Aw ?that's so cute."

"And after you use it, put it on the floor and let it have a victory dance," Attell said finishing one joke that has no place in a newspaper. A cleaner example involved penguins giving in to their tuxedoed appearance and actually attempting to wait tables in a fine dining restaurant. He quickly pointed out one of many problems: They don't have hands.

"What's the two things they say you should eat? Chicken and fish," he began while he rubbed his bald head, which shares the same 5 o'clock shadow as his face. "I'm thinking, why don't you combine the two ?penguin?"

At times he showed the genius that landed him a brilliant television show and made him a national headlining comedian. Few comics look more comfortable working the entire crowd, using the entire stage, or just resting an arm on the microphone stand while drinking out of a blue plastic cup. But, like "Insomniac," fans just kept insisting on being part of the show when, for the most part, they weren't appreciated.

"Not everybody won their tickets from a radio station," Attell said at one point trying to regain control of the room. Ninety percent of the crowd erupted in applause, but minutes later the other 10 percent was shouting out random things like "THE ZOO!" (nice job, you know where you live) or "GET 'ER DONE!" Wrong comedian, but some of Attell's funniest stuff did come from making fun of Larry the Cable Guy and the rest of the Blue-Collar Comedy crew.

For this reason, the show had the flow of a birdbath. Every time Attell would get momentum, he'd be interrupted and heckled by fans. Those fans, and the copious amounts of beer served to audience members in the near sold-out theater, aren't entirely to blame, however. Attell himself seemed to encourage the insanity by winning the room back with an audience put-down, and then quickly opening a joke that required audience members to shout things toward the stage. If the disturbances were disrupting his show, as they truly appeared to be, an outsider would suggest not inviting people to scream things.

Opener Sean Rouse might have lit the fuse on the drinking time bomb during his 20-minute set, which seemed to rely entirely on crowd interplay. The Houston-born comedian has had parts in "Men in Black" and is a Comedy Central regular whose material includes a lot of drug references and Kobe Bryant jokes.

The crowd really enjoyed his barbs, and he did a better job fighting them off with insults (none less than R-rated) than Attell. Overall, Rouse didn't have much material that was memorable, and he came across as bitter and angry.

The "Insomniac Tour" runs through July 3, and one hopes that the Kalamazoo reception for Attell is either one he's come to expect and appreciate or one he rarely receives.

It's a burden Attell has brought on himself, though. After all, the television show did seem to encourage fans to join in the fun. One can only wonder if "Fear Factor" host Joe Rogan fields a steady stream of fans shoving maggots in their mouths every time he leaves the house.
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