It’s been an entire decade since the final season of Insomniac aired on Comedy Central, as well as four years since the short lived Gong Show with Dave Attell went off the air, not to mention that he hasn’t done a stand-up special since 2007’s Captain Miserable for HBO. You might have caught his MST3K-esque porn show Dave’s Old Porn, a couple of years ago, but otherwise, you might be wondering what Attell has been up to (that is, if you haven’t caught him doing stand-up, as he has been regularly touring for quite some time).
Well, 2014 might just be the year where Attell gets all of his TV mojo back with his stand-up showcase series Comedy Underground and his brand new hour comedy special Road Work, both at Comedy Central, because they capture that lightning in a bottle that often gets lost in translation when gussied up, shot, and edited for TV. They were both taped in comedy clubs like one you might see in your very own town, not at a gigantic theater like most productions of televised stand-up these days, which lets us in on what we’re missing in not watching comedy live.
In many ways, Road Work, Attell’s new hour special is revolutionary compared to almost any other comedy special out there right now. As mentioned before, it’s not shot at some gorgeous theater that sits thousands. In fact, it’s not even a special that’s cut from one or two performances, like most specials are. Dave took himself and a camera crew to wherever he was playing, from The Stress Factory in New Jersey to ACME Comedy Club in Minneapolis and much more. As a result, Dave plays fast and loose, deals with audience members and drinks being spilled, all the things that make a live stand-up show so electric.
Sure, there’s great filthy joke after great filthy joke, ranging from every sort of dick joke to jokes about special needs kids that keep Attell’s status as a king of blue humor all through Road Work. Yet, the sounds of the audience roaring in laughter make the special much more inclusive, not unlike the way the segments of stand-up on Louie are shot. Seeing Attell genuinely work a crowd and take whatever turn he feels like taking is really watching a master class of stand-up. Throughout the special, Attell even makes several smirks right at the camera as well as handing a camera to an audience member (a practice that would usually get you thrown out of any comedy show) to make whoever is watching at home or on the computer feel like they are in the room with him as much as possible.
Dave keeps the same dynamic going for Comedy Underground, on which he hosts and features some of his favorite comedians that you ought to know, including Joe DeRosa, Jermaine Fowler, Jeff Ross, Big Jay Oakerson, Junior Stopka, Ali Wong, Nikki Glaser, Al Jackson, Judah Friedlander, Ari Shaffir, Kurt Metzger, and more, performing against the classic brick wall of a comedy club. Like Attell’s Road Work, Underground is also shot at a club, and an audience member is also given a camera to get amateur found footage of whoever is on stage to give that aforementioned feel that you’d get if you were actually there.
This show will be airing at 1 AM and thus, there is as little censorship as possible, just short of HBO-level. Attell and company delightfully take advantage of that. Not only do comedians run through material on drugs and sex freely, but they perform without the tension that is often present during a set on late night talk show. With time and content constraints, many comedians don’t really get to put what they’re really like on display when doing a water tight five on Letterman, but on Comedy Underground, Joe DeRosa went through his well crafted cocaine material and drunk stories with a playful abandon. Audience members were invited on stage to be roasted by the comedians, including Jeff Ross, keeping in the spirit of anything-can-and-does-happen.
So, it should be pretty obvious that I think you should tune in to Comedy Central tonight at midnight to catch Dave Attell’s Road Work and 1 AM right after that to watch Comedy Underground, especially since you’re getting an experience that would normally require paying cover and an item minimum, but only needs, in this case, a cable subscription.