David Attell (born January 18, 1965) is an American stand-up comedian, actor and writer, best known as the host of Comedy Central's Insomniac with Dave Attell, which gave him a cult following. Born in Queens, New York, he grew up in Rockville Centre, New York with his cousins, the Small family, and now lives in New York City. Patton Oswalt and Bill Burr have hailed him as the greatest off-color comedian alive.
After graduating from New York University in 1987 with a degree in communications, Attell worked menial jobs during the day and put in his time at comedy clubs at night. He worked his first gig at Governor's in Levittown and, according to Attell, "totally bombed".
Attell's first appearance on television was in 1988 on VH1's Stand-Up Spotlight, which also featured early appearances by Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Jeff Garlin, Jay Mohr and Wanda Sykes. The show was hosted by Rosie O'Donnell.
Perhaps his biggest break was achieved on November 23, 1993, when he made his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. The appearance was seen by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, who then recruited Attell to be a writer, and occasional performer, on SNL. Attell can be seen behind Chris Farley during the famous "Rudy Giuliani Inauguration" sketch. Attell worked on the show for the 1993–94 season.
In 1995, Attell was featured on two HBO specials: alongside up-and-comers Louis C.K., Anthony Clark, Eric Tunney and Dave Chappelle. He was a featured performer on the 1995 Young Comedians Special hosted by Garry Shandling. He was given his own 60-minute special on the channel's HBO Comedy Showcase. Subsequently, Attell was also given an episode of HBO Comedy Half-Hour in 1997.He is widely regarded as the ultimate "comedian's comedian" and a pioneer in the genre of blue comedy and black humor. Attell's first one-hour special, Captain Miserable aired December 8, 2007 on HBO. His latest special Road Work aired 2014 on Comedy Central. He was labelled as one of the most brilliant comedians with phenomenal joke-writing prowess. Dave Chappelle and Louis C.K. have hailed him as one of the most prolific geniuses of stand-up comedy. Colin Quinn described him as the Fellini of stand-up. On the 39th episode of the Comedy Cellar podcast, the owner of the Comedy Cellar Noam Dworman referred to him as the greatest comedian after Richard Pryor and George Carlin. He performs regularly at the Comedy Cellar which boasts the likes of comedians such as Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle as some of its regular performers.
The same year the network signed him on as a regular commentator on their satirical news show The Daily Show. When he arrived in 1999, the show was just finding its audience after the departure of host Craig Kilborn and the arrival of Jon Stewart, an old friend of Attell's from the New York comedy circuit. The three-year stint gave Attell access to a mass audience on a regular basis (The Daily Show has done much the same for comedians Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Lewis Black and others). Attell's series of commentary on the show was called "The Ugly American". He appeared in the finale for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In 2003, Attell began appearing semi-regularly on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. The show featured many of the performers he works with every day at the underground comedy club the Comedy Cellar and is based on the conversations they would have off-stage at the Olive Tree Cafe, the restaurant above the club. The unscripted show was canceled in November 2004.
In 2007, Attell appeared in the Michael Addis film, Heckler. Attell also appeared on Comedy Central's Last Laugh in 2007.
Other notable television roles for Attell:
- "Dave" in a couple of the early episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond
- The voice of "Frank Demore" on Crank Yankers
- "Brad Campbell" on Ed
- Himself on Arrested Development
In May 2008, Attell announced a casting call on his MySpace page for Comedy Central's relaunch of The Gong Show. Attell was host, along with Greg Fitzsimmons serving as head writer on the series. However, The Gong Show with Dave Attell aired only from July to September 2008.
Attell returned to television on Showtime beginning October 20, 2011 in Dave's Old Porn, a TV series in which Attell views and jokes about retro 1970s and 1980s pornographic movies with different guest comedians. Typically, during a given show, Attell and his guest view clips that give an overview of a particular retro porn star's career. Near the end of that show, that particular porn actor appears and also comments on clips from some of his or her movies.
Insomniac with Dave Attell
Insomniac with Dave Attell was a television series described by Attell as "Wild on E! for Ugly People", it featured Attell walking the streets of America's cities late at night, meeting the people in a haze of ecstatic inebriation. The show occasionally went overseas.
The American cities featured on the show were Albuquerque, Anchorage, Atlanta, Austin (2 times), Baltimore, Boise, Boston, Charleston (WV), Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Key West, Las Vegas, Little Rock, Long Island, Memphis, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, New Orleans, New York City (4 times), Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Reno, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City.
The most common activity (besides roaming the street aimlessly and visiting bars) was visiting workers on their night shifts. Instead of spending time with gas station attendants, he went searching for odd professions to highlight. Among them were crime-scene cleaners, bail bondsmen, cow-milkers, brothel-hookers, bicycle cops, coal miners, and porn overdubbers. Memorable episodes include a visit to Chicago's world-famous The Wieners Circle, where the staff routinely got in cursing matches with their customers, and a visit to a Phoenix nudist camp.
Throughout the run of the show, Attell carried around a one-time-use film camera and took pictures of random events, which would be shown during the end-credits.
Comedy Underground with Dave Attell
In April 2014, Comedy Central premiered Comedy Underground with Dave Attell, a late night, (mostly) uncensored stand-up comedy show taped live in New York.
The series has featured fellow comics Jeff Ross, Amy Schumer, Jermaine Fowler, Ari Shaffir, Judah Friedlander, Brad Williams, Jay Oakerson, Nikki Glaser, Kurt Metzger, Ali Wong, Louis Katz, Junior Stopka, Luenell, Russ Meneve, April Macie, Ralphie May, Al Jackson, Jimmy Shubert, Tom Rhodes, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and Artie Lange.
In the short film The Office Party, Attell once again played the role of "Don". The film co-starred ex-Karate Kid/Outsider Ralph Macchio, Jon Stewart, Carol Kane and Tate Donovan. The film was written and directed by Daily Show producer Chiara Edmands.
Attell also played "Efram the Driver" in the Independent feature My Suicidal Sweetheart, written and directed by filmmaking newcomer Michael Parness. The film co-starred Natasha Lyonne, David Krumholtz, Tim Blake Nelson, Lorraine Bracco, David Paymer and Rosanna Arquette.
Attell had cameo appearances in the films Abby Singer and Scary Movie 4.
He plays the character Barker in the 2008 comedy film Harold.
He voiced the GPS on the Mystery Machine in the 2010 film Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo.
He appeared in Trainwreck as the main character Amy's homeless friend "Noam".
- The Best of Insomniac Uncensored (Vol. 1) – DVD, 2003
- The Best of Insomniac Uncensored (Vol. 2) – DVD, 2003
- Skanks for the Memories... – CD, 2003
- Hey, Your Mouth's Not Pregnant! – DVD, 2006
- Dave Attell's Insomniac Tour – DVD, 2006
- Captain Miserable – HBO DVD, 2007
- Road Work – Comedy Central Stand-Up (Direct), 2014