Comic to Comic: Dave Attell

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Fellow Jewish comic Dave Attell has been on my top ten comic list since I started comedy. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity and prepared for the conversation like I was cramming for an exam. I approached Dave Attell between the first and second show at the Punchline. Anyone who knows me can attest to my pushy demeanor, so choosing to interrupt Dave while he was selling t-shirts ended in a quick witty sarcastic “HT, I’m working here!”

I waited patiently until he was finished and followed Dave Attell, feature artist Matt Davis, and host Carlos Valencia into the green room. The logical place to start this piece was a simple question to Dave: Do you think one major appearance, such as Letterman or Leno, can make a comedy career?

Dave was quick to negate this and went on to explain that the Internet and the mass influx of story oriented comics have saturated the market. Matt Davis piped in to add that the Carson theory of yesterday was a myth anyway, and Steve Martin himself was on Carson a handful of times before getting his break. Dave thinks 80 percent of the job as a comic lately has become trying to hold attention. Comics compete with audiences that are on their phones during the show. He finds his audiences can be hit or miss and if he pitches the material away from the television version, the crowd gets upset. Dave said, “I don’t think anything I say is particularly relevant or news worthy.” Comics can’t rely on the act being perceived the same by everyone.

Dave was adamant that the shift in the country to be politically correct has even made its way to his hometown of New York City. There are a lot of tourists and the crowds are starting to be 20-somethings that weren’t raised to talk dirty or don’t understand the sarcasm. The new generation hasn’t faced the reality that life can be shitty and you have to develop a sense of humor. Matt Davis adds, “Even if they’re are in the 20-something group, they were in high school recently.”

We grew up without the Internet and pornography wasn’t so readily available. We had to find our father’s stash or underwear advertisements. Porn has a mainstream attitude and accessibility has taken away the shock factor. The Internet is a source for endless filth. Dave thinks only two or three bits a set in his act really push the envelope. Dave feels his style of comedy is over. It’s become too PC and people don’t respect inappropriate.

This brings us to Dave Attell’s television career. His fame and fanbase know him mostly from Insomniac on Comedy Central. He had a chance to hang out with local people all over the country and experience the towns and cultures around the gigs. What a great way to know your target audience and make a fanbase thrive! There was even a short skit on The New Gong Show that even I didn’t remember seeing. But his new acquisition of Dave’s Old Porn on Showtime is his pride and joy. He has artistic license and produces the show, creating an environment where he can do what he thinks is good television. The premise is a couch with Dave Attell and another comic as a guest and a retro porn star in the middle discussing the porn on the green screen behind them. It is all Dave’s old porn from his collection.

I am a great lover of porn and even have my own nickname from growing up with a large collection of “Vintage Smut.” This show is brilliant and gives tribute to the retro porn stars. I asked Dave if Seka was dead. He assured me she is very much alive and in fact lives in the Deep South now! Seka actually was the must have for Dave’s Old Porn and he knew the show was legit once she started consulting and helping get the other retro porn stars to appear.. In the 70’s, porn actors were Jewish guys and Catholic girls. Sounds like guilty pleasure! Dave’s show page can be found at davesoldporn.com and Attellporn on Twitter.

As a comic I have to give props and tell you about the supporting acts from Dave’s show. The host was Carlos Valencia, hailing from North Carolina, now a resident in Atlanta.  I know him from my dealings with Doug Stanhope; Carlos was on Stanhope’s last tour. Carlos’ wit is what drives his funny act. He grabs the audience right off the bat. A glance, a sarcastic gesture, and a punch line   He impressed me and y’all should look him up. The feature act was the talk of the night. Matt Davis from Alabama was visually a mix of Calvin Klein suit with a intimidating demeanor. Davis’ set was a game changer for me as a comic. He was the most pro unknown comic I have ever seen. I found myself studying his movements, nuances and gestures, watching his pauses and stance and taking notes. We were blessed to be asked to do a set Sunday night. A Jew and a Black Guy got stuck after Matt Davis and right before Dave Attell (no pressure right?)  We hung with the big boys, but Matt Davis was a monster and tore up the stage.

I asked Dave Attell what his must have food stops are every time he is in Georgia? He didn’t have a specific destination (I sent him to Fox Bros) but did say he goes wherever there is meat. The BBQ is amazing here and he always tries to explore the BBQ greatness Atlanta has to offer. He couldn’t praise The Punchline enough, stating that it’s the last of the true blue road clubs. People come to expect great comedy of all forms at The Punchline. Like The Comedy Cellar in New York City, these clubs are the last of their kind. These clubs have no reams of corporate influence or franchising. The Punchline has a staff that helps local comics and headliners feel comfortable and do their job. Marcey at the Punchline has watched all kinds of comics come through and knows what is funny. Jamie Bendall (the owner) keeps the same ideals alive that the founders of the club set as a precedent 30 years ago. This club feels like home and gives us as up and coming acts, a platform for greatness. As our acts get bigger and bigger, The Punchline is the place to be!

A Jew and a Black Guy thank Dave Attell for sitting down with us. Thank you for giving us a shot on Sundays show at The Punchline. Giving back to newer comics is Dave Attell’s way and he is very accessible as a good guy and a fantastic legend comic. Look for him at davesoldporn.com and do yourself a favor and see him live. It will change your world!

 

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