Comedy Interview: Dave Attell

Dave Attell Talks Hot Dogs, Porn And Comedy

Courtney Foster
7 min read
Dave Attell
(courtesy of the artist)
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For the last 35 years, Dave Attell has been “finding the funny” and shoving it in his audience’s face. Be it with one of his inventive shows, like Bumping Mics or Insomniac, or his acclaimed standup act, he makes it impossible not to leave your squeamish notions at the door and just get some laughs in. You can check out Dave Attell’s new material at The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino (54 Jemez Dam Rd.) on either Friday, July 19, or Saturday, July 20, at 7pm or 9:30pm.

Weekly Alibi: Tell me what you’re touring on.

Dave Attell: Well last summer I did
Bumping Mics with Jeff Ross and that was the both of us onstage, and it got some really great feedback. We were both super-surprised about how many comedy fans came out. Him and I had done our own stuff for years but to see a whole new audience together was really cool. So I’ve been touring with Jeff off and on for the last couple months. But I always go out on the road. I’m always out playing clubs all the time. I’m working on some new material and hopefully I’ll do a new special by the end of this year.

I was always a big fan of your show Insomniac, and I know you did an episode here in Albuquerque. That was like 16 years ago or something, right? Have you been back since then?

Yah, I played the town a bunch. They used to have a club Downtown but I don’t think it’s there anymore. But I was at the casino maybe a year ago. But I can’t say that I’ve been Downtown in the last two years. I can tell you this: ABQ in the summer, you’ve got to want it. It’s probably going to be like 100 degrees there.

How have you managed to be an off-color comedian in this era of PC culture?

What I do is what I do, and I’ve been doing it for years. I’m an old school club comic and I know that in today’s time, there’s a lot of trigger words but I just go for the joke. People put an importance on comedy and you see people tweeting about their outrage and for me, it’s not my scene. My audience can take a joke. What I would say about my audience is that they drink, they can take a joke and they tip big. They just want to hear the funny. They don’t want to be preached to. They don’t want a life lesson. They just want to have a good time. At the end of the day, I think most of them leave pretty happy. And that’s who I play to. I listen to the audience and if they groan and moan, that means I need to fix the joke. And if they get up and walk out, then I usually know that that joke needs a definite tune-up. But there are definitely some people who are not used to live performance comedy. They watch it on YouTube or are big fans on Twitter, and it’s a totally different experience. You’re kind of in a zone, a part of a group and present. For some people, that’s getting a lot harder now because of the technical world that we live in.

Have you always been able to do crowd work and handle hecklers or was there ever kind of a learning curve there?

No one starts out being like, “I want to be a master crowd work guy.” I think a lot of that was mostly just called self-defense for how difficult it is to deal with a drunken crowd. But the crowds now I think are more sedate, more judgmental and they don’t want to be a target. Like everyone in the club is like “I don’t want to get picked on.” They’re more vocal on the web then they are at the actual show. Back in the day, it was more people yelling “you suck” or throwing bottles at you—fights after the show. You don’t see that a lot any more. Not saying that it doesn’t happen but you see people more like taking it in and digesting it and then getting angry.

Have you always been comfortable on big stages like this? How did you get comfortable up there?

No. I think that there’s very few people who are comfortable in the situation of talking to strangers. But it seems like today’s generation of younger comics are more comfortable with themselves because they spend a lot more time talking about themselves, taking pictures of themselves and speaking their feelings on the web and all the other platforms. It seems to me that the crowd kind of gets that person’s situation and feels for them more. It doesn’t mean that they’re gonna give up the laughs but I think that they meet them about halfway.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing comedy?

Well, I was selling shoes. So I assume I’d be better at doing those things now. I don’t see myself as an artist or anything. I’d like to think of comedy as like a craft and you have to put a lot of time into it. There are definitely some people who are amazing at it and who are artists like [Dave] Chappelle. Not everybody has all of those skills and abilities, and I would put myself in the group of people not having them. It took me a long time to just be a club comic and I think—every time I go up there, I’m still thinking “how can I get better?” I’m always pushing material but I know that material versus performance is kind of like left hand and right hand. You don’t want one side of it to be your strength; they need to work together so that it makes the show. I would say that if I wasn’t a comic. … Well I drank a lot so I would say that I would be running a bar or working at a bar or in rehab or something. But if I stuck to my Long Island roots, I’d probably be a shoe salesman or something.

Would you rather be able to drink again with no consequences but you have to give up smoking or would you rather continue smoking with no consequences but you have to give up porn?

Before I answer this question, let me ask you: Are you a genie? Can you make any of this happen? I would not give up smoking. That’s definitely my biggest addiction. I do miss drinking sometimes but I never miss it like I would miss a cigarette. I would never go back through airport security for a shot of Kahlua. Giving up porn, to be honest, I really don’t watch as much as I used to and as I get older, I realize that by the time I get everything going, it’s all done anyhow. To be fair, I would say that I still have my old man imagination.

Lightning Round

Red or green?

That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m gonna go with red chile.

Bush or no bush?

I think a little tuft to tell the story is good. But also everyone appreciates the effort. It’s lady’s choice, of course.

How old were you when you had your first kiss?

Oh geez. I guess it was at my Bar Mitzvah.

What’s your shoe size? I think I’m a 10 to a 10 1/2, depending on bloat. I have a wide foot. I’m getting older so my feet are widening out.

Describe your favorite hot dog.

I have two favorites. I like a Coney Island classic hot dog. I’m not a huge fan of mustard though, but I’ll eat it. I’m also Jewish so I appreciate a kosher hot dog but it doesn’t have to be that. But my favorite of the hot dog world is the chile dog: It’s so messy, you have to bring a whole other outfit to eat it.

Dave Attell

Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20

7pm, 9:30pm

Tickets: $20-$45

The Stage at The Star

54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo

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