Dave Attell gives back to some of his fellow comedy veterans, and in a very real way has given back to military veterans and their families, through filming his new stand-up showcase series, Comedy Underground with Dave Attell, which debuts at 1 a.m. Sunday on Comedy Central following the premiere of Attell’s latest hour solo special, “Road Work.”
The first episode of “Comedy Underground” features stand-up from Jermaine Fowler, Joe DeRosa and Jay Oakerson, plus a drop-in from Jeffrey Ross. Next Saturday night, it’s Ari Shaffir, Pete Davidson and Brad Williams, plus a drop-in from Amy Schumer. Future episodes include Tom Rhodes, Jimmy Shubert, as well as the TV debut for Chicago upstart Junior Stopka. There’s a mix of rising stars and already stars, including Ali Wong, Kurt Metzger, Nikki Glaser, Mike Vecchione, Russ Meneve, April Macie, Ralphie May, Lynne Koplitz, Lil Rel, Judah Friedlander, Louis Katz, Robert Kelly, Luenell, Jesse Joyce and Al Jackson.
At 1 a.m., after Saturday Night Live has gone to bed on network, it’s certainly late enough on cable TV that Comedy Central can go uncensored without worries. So no bleeping the profanity.
“None of those robot cum noises here,” Attell says in tonight’s premiere. “Just good old-fashioned filthy humor.”
When Attell introduces “The Roastmaster” to kick things off with the first dirty joke of the telecast, Ross first has to zing the host and his production’s budget. “Dave, I’m really glad you’re doing so well,” Ross quips.
Haha. Teehee. See how Dave Attell, veteran of comedy clubs and Comedy Central, is reduced to a low-budget after-midnight show in a club basement? And yet. This is how it’s supposed to be. This is the way, if you’re not going to see live comedy in person, that you want it to be delivered into your living room, bedroom or mobile device.
It’s not just that the comedy is gritty. The setting is gritty. It’s a comedy club. You don’t want high ceilings, good lighting or big tables and booths. We’re not trying to glamorize stand-up comedy. Not that there’s any hint of no-budget or low-budget to be seen through the camera lens. In fact, if anything, the soft focus does make the gritty seem glamorous, or at least romantic. Even the front-row handheld cameras that Attell hands to a volunteer in the beginning of each episode provide you with great perspective, evoking a feeling that you’re right there in the action — without the comedians or the comedy getting too much in your face.
No bullying. No heckling.
When I left off my conversation with Attell about his solo stand-up special, “Road Work,” he was telling The Comic’s Comic how The Comedy Cellar “is the club that everybody knows already.” So he filmed “Comedy Underground” around the corner at the Village Underground on West 3rd Street, run by the same owners.
You throw a bone to comedians who aren’t overexposed in this series, guys like Shubert. Attell cuts me off.
“I know the names you’re thinking about. I just want to say: This was their (Comedy Central’s) show. And they were very cool with me giving input. And as time went on, I got more involved than I guess any of us planned, because I just saw the way I wanted it — and there were some technical problems — so we really did try and, or at least I did, really try to make it so that this looks good for the club, the comics and also for the comedy. Which is that we want this to be a thing for late-night, dirty comedy.
“So the names that you’re talking about — the Shuberts, Tom Rhodes, all these guys — these are guys that I worked with on the road. Or just know from my generation of comedy. So I know that they’re funny. I know that this is the thing that they can do. I think it’s really sad that these guys, and other guys are not doing hour specials all the time. There has to be a way for these great guys to get this material out. And I think that they’re in the same loop that I’m kind of in, which is like, you’re on the road, you’re building material, you’re building material, you’re building material, and people are like, ‘Hang out, it’ll happen. You’re gonna get a special.’ And then, you know, that’s what I did. I could have done a special a year ago! It wouldn’t have been as good. But it’s like, I know when I’m ready, and when I’m ready, I want to do it! I don’t want to stop. I know how hard it is to start again. And I think that’s some of the problems we’re having. Especially with these cool (new) names, of, I want to see more material from them.
“That’s what this thing is about. You see them. You go, ‘Hey, that guy’s cool.’ Maybe it’ll lead to more material. Or more, like, exposure for them to do it. But I know they’re funny. And the network always wants the hippest, hottest names. But I said, for this thing, you really need the guys who can do it. The people that can produce. And I think at the end of the day, I would say that we erred on the side of filthy dirty, instead of, just like, there were other names that I wanted to put in there, and that they wanted put in. But I said, ‘I don’t think they’re dirty enough.’ But the crowds still, even though they were good, they weren’t crazy, I don’t think they got that we could finally open up and that we want you to do that. So…”
Yeah. It’s late-night comedy!
“Yeah. You were there. So hopefully if it went forward, that’s what we’d be shooting for. Dirty. But funny. But smart. All three. That would just be the best for everybody.”
Thanks, Dave. (Note: I turned the recorder off, but Attell asked me to turn it back on)
“I just want to say, you’ve been very good to comedy. You’ve been very good to comedy, and for a long long time.”
Yeah. Let’s make sure we get this on the record! I laugh.
“You’ve been very good to me and to comedy for a long, long time. I think you understand it, both the actual mechanics of it. And also, I think the spirit of it. And I can’t thank you enough for doing it. I could just do a shoutout for my website, DaveAttell.com. There’s information on there for a charity that — I’ve already thrown my money on it — and hopefully, it’s called Operation Purple. It’s the military assistance for families of veterans, and their needs when they come back. It’s a really, really good charity. I just did the benefit for it. Not much of a turnout, so it really got me angry. So I figured it’s time for me to step up, throw some of this comedy coin back. And do it. I given to charities over the years. But this is one that I think is a really good one. And I’m hoping to tie it, somehow, to more — when this stuff becomes available online, with downloads, so that people will know like, you know. It’s never about the money with downloads. Because I don’t think there is any money in it, personally. I’m not like. It’s about protecting material. Making sure that the people who do get it are doing their part. And if they know that, down the road, this will lead to something, to more — another donation or something like that — maybe that’ll keep them on the straight and narrow. So that’s what I’m hoping. It’s for a good cause. It’s not about me.”
I saw you posted something the other day. You gave $25,000 to Operation Purple, correct?
“Yes. That’s a lot of Stardomes in Birmingham, Alabama. That’s a place I wanted to play, too. But I never could fill it. It’s really, really weird. It would have been fun, it would have been very Spinal Tap.”
Louis CK went down there to shoot for an episode of Louie.
“Well, Louis can do whatever he wants. For my shitty special, I was just lucky that we got what we got. There is a lot of spontaneous stuff in it. A lot of good crowd work. Some of it, I’m always protective of the people in it, so there was stuff, like, maybe you’ll see it in the extras that aren’t as cool as what we had in the special. The network was really good. I only had to cut out one or two jokes.”
Will we see you release that in a separate version, then?
“No. I ran out of money. I’ll try to release some extras on my site, though.”
The first episode of Comedy Underground with Dave Attell, featuring Joe DeRosa, Jermaine Fowler, Jay Oakerson and Jeffrey Ross, premieres at 1 a.m. Saturday following Dave Attell: Crowd Work. It’s online, too.
Here are some clips:
Joe DeRosa jokes about cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs. Kids of all ages: Don’t do drugs.
Jermaine Fowler pulls a prank on his white friend. And yes, it gets racial right quick.
Jay Oakerson makes a case for why women need to keep their pubic hair, and not shave it.
DONATE: Give to Operation Purple.