This February 14, take your sweetheart out for a night of fine lines. There’s no better way to say “I love you” to that special person than a date spent watching the Shakespeare of dick jokes.
Standup veteran Dave Attell has been composing elevated, depraved punch lines for over 30 years, becoming known as one of the best ever at his craft. “I think everybody likes a dick joke. I’m going to go out on a limb here,” he says on the phone while opening mail in his New York City home. “I’ll be there on Valentine’s Day. I’ll be up there sad so you can look at me as the road not taken.”
Okay, ribald witticisms aren't everyone's cuppa oolong, but surely anyone can appreciate a job well done.
The self-deprecating master will always choose to deflect praise. He acknowledges that the masses will inevitably claim “If it’s funny, it’s funny,” but adds, “That’s usually followed up with ‘Whatever you said was not funny.’ Not ‘You know what? I thought it over and you’re right: that is funny.’ ”
Attell is playing the Vogue Theatre as part of the JFL NorthWest comedy fest, but he claims to be nothing more than a greasy club comedian. “There’s a whole other world of comedy now, like arena comedy, theatre comedy, Twitter comedy,” he says. “There’s all these different mediums for comedy, but I’m just really a club comic.”
He excels anywhere, but it’s in the rough-and-tumble world of nightclubs that he’s most comfortable. And he was even more so back in the day when the audience wasn’t distracted by technology.
“That was the beauty of club comedy,” he says. “It was a wilder experience. I used to call it like a knife fight. Now they’ll sit there quietly. You don’t know if they’re having a good time, and then you have to read the tweets and go, ‘Oh, I guess I did okay.’ ”
The performances are what keeps him going, though. He still enjoys the stage time, even if the ancillaries don’t thrill him.
“I think about quitting all the time,” he says. “Not because I’m not having fun doing it. It’s just the actual promotion and the travel, I get stressed-out more, I have to take care of my mom, there’s no fun to the road. Doing the shows is the fun. But I think about it a lot. Like, I do feel like I’m not relevant. I could care less about speaking to power and all that stuff. That’s not my job. I feel like I’m there to be funny. A lot of my jokes, I think, cross the line. I’m definitely not as dirty as I used to be, but I would say it’s still not a PG-13 act; it’s an R act. That's what I do.”
Politics doesn’t interest him. Nor does personal storytelling. He prefers perfectly concise jokes to quotidian narratives.
“There’s this whole generation of audience where they’re like, ‘Oh, this is not the truth,’ ” he says. “I feel bad for them. Because I’ve seen comics that only talk about the reality of their life and it’s boring. I really feel like I’ve heard your story about going to a Jamba Juice with a girlfriend. When I used to watch Wrestlemania, I was never like, ‘I wonder what the Iron Sheik is like when he’s not up there in a full-tilt death throe.’ ”
You won't get to know the man behind the jokes, but you'll laugh yourself silly, guaranteed. Or at least tweet about it.
Dave Attell plays the Vogue Theatre on Thursday (February 14) as part of the JFL NorthWest comedy festival .