Q&A: Dave Attell
Dave Attell is often referred to as a “comedian’s comedian.” The 54-year-old stand-up comic has been a mainstay in mainstream standup comedy since the 1990s and has experienced success as a live performer and television personality. With the release of his new show Bumping Mics on Netflix, more people are finding out what makes Attell so special. Las Vegas Magazine's Jason Harris caught up with him in anticipation for his shows The Comedy Cellar inside The Rio on Feb. 18.
What excites you about Las Vegas these days?
I'm excited that there's some club shows in Vegas now. Most of the time I play there, it's at bigger shows. I’m a club comic so it’s a better fit. It’s a cool gig. The Rio is classic. And the real selling point of the show is free parking. People should know that.
That free parking definitely gives you a leg up. Can you talk about the difference between The Comedy Cellar in New York and Las Vegas?
In New York, there are a lot of tourists that come to the show, but it’s totally a different vibe. You have a million comics and comedy fans in New York, whereas in Vegas there are the hardcore locals, but the majority of people going out are the tourists. The comics themselves are also tourists. I think it’s harder in Vegas because if you go to Vegas the last thing you are thinking is, “I’m hoping I can catch a comedy show.” It's very low on the list of things to do. And every time I go to Vegas, there's another thing you can do. Like you can throw axes now. I never thought that was going to happen. And now you can.
I'm surprised that you never thought that would happen in Vegas. That seems like a natural fit to me.
It is. I'm glad it's separated. Next time it will be throw an axe at the comic. But back to your question, I think this club is great for local people who work in the industry on weekends and have off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. They get a lot of really great comics coming out of New York and L.A., and you get a really good showcase show. You don't see that much in Vegas anymore.
Did you think that all these years later, Insomniac (Dave’s comedic travelogue show on Comedy Central that aired from 2001-’04) would have such a cult following?
Of all the things I’ve done, that's the credit that made me. And I had no idea that it had that kind of following, especially when we were doing it. It wasn’t a runaway hit. I guess Comedy Central, back in the day, didn't have algorithms or social media so you didn't really know who was watching. I always thought it was for the core industry people—people who go out and drink and third shift people and college kids. All these years later, it turns out it was the younger crowd, kids who couldn't go out, kids in their teens. They'll say, “I couldn't even drive yet so I’d watch the show.” Or, “I’d sneak down after my parents fell asleep and watch the show.” When I run into them on the street, now they're in their thirties and they come up to me and tell me what episodes they like. I really didn't know it had that hold on people.
Did you expect Bumping Mics to catch on with this momentum?
I was blown away by how much attention this thing got. Jeff (Ross, Dave’s on-stage partner in the show) saw it from the beginning. I’m very cynical. He’s more connected and said, “This is gonna be huge.” I didn't know because of the way things are in the world. This thing is so un-PC. We didn't put a filter on it. It's raw, straight up comedy. A lot of, I guess you could say, trigger words and all that.
Give us the hard sell for people to come see you on Feb. 18.
Bill Hicks now has been dead for 25 years. Isn't that amazing? I was looking at all these great comics. I want to do something like my Mount Rushmore of comedy. And I was like, “Wow. It’s been that long. I can’t believe it.” But people still talk about him. He really did make a mark. We always bring up the legends and since his death, there's been at least 20 other great comics who have passed away. So people should definitely check me out before I go.