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He's Not Sleeping

'Insomniac' star Dave Attell hangs loose at Boston's Comedy Connection.

In person, Dave Attell’s act is not quite as rat-a-tat as it sounds on his comedy album “Skanks for the Memories.” Whether this can be written off to the results of his status as a “famous drunk” -- how he’s billed in his own advertisements now -- is uncertain, but he is still adding material and not coasting on the same sets of jokes.

In a November 4, 2005 Boston performance, a few of his standbys were still there, heard previously on his Comedy Central “Insomniac Tour” special, like a bit about the phenomenon of “ball drop” (if you don’t already know, don’t ask). For most of the set, though, Attell seemed to be pushing his own material further beyond the edge, even to the point where some things didn’t fly, prompting him to observe, “I throw a lot of stuff at the wall, not all of it’s going to stick.”

As ever, Attell’s humor is enhanced by his delivery, crafted with a few different voices for saying different things for emphasis and effect, such the incredulous tone he uses to say, “They’ve got to stop building schools near pedophiles, these people need to live too.”

Attell goes into some sick realms certainly … like midgets in porn, the pleasures of rocking chair masturbation and various incidents caused by drinking Jagermeister that could sell this liquor if it had TV commercials.

Having cultivated fans among college students and those who share his twisted sensibility, Attell attracts fans like one in the audience wearing a shirt reading, “Ass. The other vagina.” But Attell didn’t give this fan any attention like you might expect, and instead focused on a bald-headed man he dubbed a Michael Stipe clone, riffing on how such an appearance seems unhealthful, to say the least. Perhaps Attell chose this subject because it gave him more to work with.

Comedians at a top level playing showcase clubs with higher-end cover prices often give much different types of performances than they would in a large theater setting. Clubs require a lot more audience patter than a theater show. Most of the time a theater show requires them to present material in succession without too much audience banter. That banter usually detracts from a show, it seems, and saps some life and energy out a performance, making it actually harder to get laughs because of the difficulty of building joke on top of joke in rapid succession to keep the audience off balance enough to keep laughing.

This difference is often the rule, and with Attell, the effect is perceptible. Having seen him in a theater setting and enjoyed his album, delivering his material in rapid succession with little chance for the audience to breathe suits him better.

  

   

     

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