COMEDY: Off the Wagon, On the Bus

Dave’s back, bitch!

Julie Seabaugh

Er ... sorry, wrong stand-up comedian and Comedy Central star named Dave. The one we're talking about didn't hop a mystery flight to South Africa, nor did he turn the phrase, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" into the "Where's the beef?" of the Aughts.

The Dave of whom we speak is the once and hopefully future host of Insomniac with Dave Attell, and he's currently headlining the ever-so-succinctly named "Comedy Central Live Presents Dave Attell: The Insomniac Tour."

This Dave last swung through town in January 2004, when he co-headed the inaugural Comedy Central Live tour with The Daily Show's resident rantophile, Lewis Black. A year prior, Attell was in town to ogle a lobbyful of AVN Awards nominees, check out a local pawnshop and share a blackjack table with Pat Morita, Charo and Robin Leach, all of which made the cut for an Insomniac episode that aired the following June.

This time around, he's rolling in a big, ol' black bus with his grimacing mug plastered on the side. And speaking of plastered, Attell says he's handling the pressures of carrying a national tour by himself just fine, thanks: "It's all on me, but I'm drinking my way through it. I'm drinking for two, now."

In addition to his CD, Skanks for the Memories, and two volumes of The Best of Insomniac Uncensored on DVD (the second of which contains the Vegas episode in all of its original, un-bleeped glory), Attell recently completed his debut stand-up DVD, Hey, Your Mouth's Not Pregnant, being hawked alongside some truly morning-sickness-inducing T-shirt designs.

The first of the tour's 40 dates was April 20 in Nashville ("It was a rough start in Nashville on Hitler's birthday, but I think we're over the hump," he says). He was still going strong a month later in St. Louis, burning through cigarette after cigarette at a nonsmoking show and easily spewing forth the off-the-cuff filth that has cemented him as one of the country's most-respected-in-their-field comics. In fact, other than three or four connectors from existing bits, most of this tour's material is brand-monkey-spanking new to even hard-core fans. And as is usually the case, the amount of Jager sent to the stage by these fans could keep the staff of Modern Drunkard magazine afloat straight through next Oktoberfest.

While Attell does appreciate the sentiment, sometimes it's necessary to pass the liquid offerings on to audience members. "People come down who saw the TV show, and I guess they expect a wild party time, but it's just straight-ahead stand-up," he says. "People pay big money and I think they want to hear my act, but some people think it's more of a drunk festival. But it's their choice; it's a free country."

As for the TV show that facilitates such expectations, you may have noticed that there haven't been too many new episodes airing lately. Or none at all. While it's true Attell took a breather to shoot a pilot for Fox, it's the program's very success with the drunk-and-crazed college crowd that has endangered its original vision. "I would like to get to the point where I miss [filming] it," Attell says. "It's a great thing to do it, but it's good to take a break. I don't want to overdo it. I don't want to do so many of them where it's like, ‘I can't believe this thing's still on the air.' The more it gets known, the harder it is to do, and it was definitely getting that way."

If he doesn't exactly miss splicing several nights' worth of film and identical shirts into one half-hour of cinema faux-verite, is there anything he's missed overall? Anything he regrets or would redo in his career? "I guess I wouldn't have started smoking," he deadpans. "I would have started doing chaw. It would have gotten me into the Blue-Collar thing."

Though he can't join the Blue Collar TV crew, Attell just might have a chance to beat Jeff Foxworthy, the Cable Guy and company, at least in the ratings department, as Comedy Central will tape the two Vegas House of Blues shows, at which comics Dane Cook, Greg Giraldo and Sean Rouse also will perform, for a feature-length concert film that will air in October.

"Comedy Central came to me a few months ago, saying it would be this and that in Vegas, but I wasn't really feeling it. Then they said, ‘Dave Attell,' and I said, ‘I'm in.'" says Cook, whose latest album, Retaliation, is available July 26. "I've been a big fan of his forever."

Attell says he'll "maybe" start filming more Insomniac episodes in the fall. Other than that, he's "going to get off the road, just because I've run out of markets. So hopefully I'll figure out something else to do TV-wise. But I don't really have any long-range plans at this moment." In the short term, however, he does have advice for those conflicted over their various Las Vegas Centennial options: "Oh God, you can't beat Weezer. Why even try? Hell, I'd rather go see Weezer instead of me."

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