Comedy cures the insomniac
Stand-up comedian Dave Attell was wandering the streets of Hollywood in search of a hotel to sleep in when he talked to me about his upcoming show in Eugene. Attell, named one of the 25 Funniest People in America by Entertainment Weekly magazine, and best known for hosting Comedy Central’s “Insomniac” and “The Gong Show,” has been on the road for the past few months, doing shows every weekend.
“I lose track of time once I fly out – it’s a blur. I’ve got some new stuff about the election and the weather,” Attell said. “I do a lot of weather jokes because it seems that everywhere I go there’s horrific weather like hurricanes and firestorms.” The comedian was forced to cancel his show in Texas last month because of a power outage, and it was a burning 90 degrees during his last show in Tucson, Ariz.
“Insomniac,” produced in 2001, features Attell’s late-night quests for wild and wacky parties. Nicknamed “the comic’s comic” for having comedy’s biggest names attend his acts at his home base of the Comedy Cellar in New York City, Attell’s first and true love is stand-up. “I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and the best place for jokes is stand-up,” Attell said. “Live is always better; there is an immediate audience response, as opposed to millions of vicious e-mails. You can say what you want without having to water it down for the networks.”
Attell has a reputation for rough blue-collar black humor that is edgy and provocative. “Anything is fair game as long as it’s funny,” he said. Nevertheless, he frequently encounters tough crowds. “Crowds are always conservative,” said Attell, “it’s the comic’s job to push the envelope.”
Still, Attell admitted that a joke can sometimes be too much even for him, recalling a cigarette lighter he saw in Germany that depicted a miniature plane crashing into the World Trade Center’s twin towers. “I live in New York. I was there when it happened. They saw it from far away on TV, so they thought it was funny,” he said.
Attell will be making his way through Seattle and Portland before he reaches Eugene this weekend. “It’s hard to get the people to come out with this economy,” he said. Things have otherwise been going smoothly, and Attell is excited to visit some new places. The New York native will be visiting Eugene for the first time, and he’s excited to meet the city’s “crunchy hippies.”