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Interview Fri Jul 12 2013

Old Man Porn with Dave Attell

Dave Attell.jpg

This weekend, legendary comic Dave Attell performs alongside Chicago native Danny Kallas at Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. I was able to chat with the stand-up legend and hilarious 'Insomniac' Attell; the comedian got nasty as we discussed retro porn, his favorite dirty comics and tips to navigate the entertainment business.

Hey Dave, thanks for chatting with me. So what are you up to in Chicago?

No problem. Yes sir, I will be in Chicago this weekend at The Mayne Stage. The guy performing with me is Danny Kallas. I heard he's a big Chicago comic, so I'm excited.

With stand-up, how do you get paired up with comedians?

That's a good question. I always like to use the local guys because it's hard enough to get work and sometimes club work. I'm down that they have their headliners, bring their own guys. I always just try to go with that.

Is there a group mentality with stand-ups working together? Is there encouragement, to wish the other comic well?

Yeah it's always that way. I've been doing it for 26 years and I think its safe to say, after a while, the only people you can relate to are comics because you hang out with them all the time. But as a guy who has been on the road a long time, you only get better with stage time. So, it's good for these new guys coming up to give them some stage time, whether it's a guest spot, opening or middling. You should do it. I think it does help all comedy. There's so many different comics and so many different crowds. I like the crowds in Chicago. They like comedy and that's always a plus. And they really do get it and like to come out to shows.

Do you like to mix it up with different comedy outlets? Or is stand-up your thing?

I like to do a different show every time. But I'm not an improv actor. I always just try to create my own projects or stand-up specials. Maybe once or twice I'll do some acting things, but I'm not an actor. I 'm happy about that. I wake up every day thanking God I'm not an actor. I realize, when and where I perform, I really just don't give a sh-- anymore. I just like filling the clubs up. I kind of gave up on reviews and things like that. This is kind of a rarity--I usually play comedy clubs. But I heard it's [Mayne Stage] a really good theater, so why not? It will be really fun because I'll work with really funny comics and it will be a totally hardcore show. The crowd will want really dirty humor.

I like how all your shows aren't trying to be edgy. 'Insomniac' was just about things you like...cracking jokes, showing the late night scene and drinking. For your series on Showtime, "Dave's Old Porn," did you just pitch the show to them, like, "I just have this box of porn--I'll crack jokes--let's make this happen?"

Well, Stewart Bailey, who is the co-executive producer on "The Daily Show," he and I came up with the idea. I wanted to do a show--just do unscripted jokes with the porn aspect, which is the cool part of it, [and] just getting dirty, talking about dirty stuff. People really like that kind of comedy and really like that kind of porn. People have been coming up to me and saying, "Man, I really love that show." Hopefully, the DVD will get to people that didn't get to see it. It's rare to set your ideas in action and just figure it out. Even though they [Showtime] didn't want to bring it back for a third season, I'm just glad I got to do it like I wanted to do it.

There's definitely no show like it. People don't talk about porn enough...

Oh man, porn is international. Porn is bigger than currency. Comedy and porn are a great match. Every other comic I know is watching porn as much as me, more than me, or they never watch it at all. And that was the fun part, having all these super cool women on the show, like Kathy Griffin, who is an amazing improvisational actress and incredible comic. We had Amy Schumer on, who knows more about porn than anybody. It was cool to have all these different comics and styles. And then we had porn stars from the flicks we were watching come on like Ron Jeremy and Kayden Kross. They're all really, really, cool. It wasn't in any way, some type of judgmental show, it was just all about the fun of it. I think there should be more shows like that, and less judging.

But for the youngins out there, this is like your dad's porn--retro 70s and 80s.

Exactly. Anybody in these films are either dead or in rehab.

How open-minded have networks been with your ideas for a new show? Is it hard to maintain some creative freedom?

I don't pitch ideas right now. But I would say that for the pitching aspect, never have we lived in a better time but also such a harder time for it. Let's say you're a young guy, and you and your friends maybe want to put out some videos, or maybe get the right people to see it. Good luck, because you know there are millions of other guys, more connected, [who] have more money, or even have more drive than you guys. The good thing is you don't really need a network, but you kind of still do, just to put you on some kind of legitimate platform. Even if you're an internet sensation, whether comedy or some skateboarding videos or something, it just becomes this internet content. And it is there for people who are getting hip to what's going on out there.

When I talk to comedians, it seems that the form of stand-up becomes this core identity of comedy--that they have to return to doing a good stand-up set to get back to who they are as a comic...

That's great that you say that because I don't think of myself as a great stand-up comic. But for me, I'm just the guy trying to put together a new hour. Just put together a great show and I don't want to just do things for money. There are a couple of things that I want to do, TV-wise, while I have a full plate already.

You mentioned this earlier: Do you believe true fans of comedy are the ones who end up at stand-up shows?

Yeah, it's awesome when you see the same people come to your first show one night, and then come the next night. I'm like, "Whoa that's awesome!" And then I'll try to do stuff for them because that's amazing, even though the venue probably had a good chicken deal that night. I assume that those are the people that really want to have a good time.

What are you up to in your spare time?

I am constantly editing and stuff, working on the DVD of "Dave's Old Porn," which is a lot more work than I realized, and that process is just me trying to find all these cool moments that might have not made it on the show. Right now, I'm more about getting back to my act, getting back on the road, to get back to the feeling of whoever is coming to see me as a fan of comedy. And I can't thank them enough for that. I just want to get a connection with those people and just get better at comedy. I'm not a great comic--I'm a good comic. And I've been doing it a long time. I want this to be the year that I just really focus on my comedy and not about other things to do.

What comedians are you checking out right now?

The people that make me laugh are some of New York-based guys, who are coming up with really good new material. But I would say the guy who I never get tired of watching is Doug Stanhope. He's definitely the "last of the Mohicans', like, the last of the real hardcore comics. But people I work with like Amy Schumer and Artie Lange--they are all about truth and telling good stories.

Are you known as the "Insomniac" guy?

Now that you said that, yeah, that's what I get most times. I'm for that; it's kind of hard to top anything you do on television because a lot of guys do a TV show than it just sticks. But I'm more of just a comic--just this drinking, hardcore comic--trying to always become better.

But "Insomniac" was a great show. You're known for being you and having a good time late at night. At least you don't have that cheesy, sweater-wearing TV image like Bob Saget.

[Laughs] Oh yeah, Bob. But he always looks good. He's "money-in-the-bank" good.

"Insomniac" just kind of ended. Was it because you couldn't just keep it as spontaneous anymore?

People ask me all the time what happened to that show. We were doing these hour specials in different countries across the world. I guess the network wasn't feeling it. I was just happy that people liked it. And I guess it wasn't as popular then as it is now. I'm glad that I stopped. I think people keep bringing it up because they kind of grew up with it. At the end of the day, I really felt like everything we did was good and the people who worked on it were amazing. But if we kept going, we would just keep repeating ourselves more and have to set things up.

I think of "Insomniac," like I do "Chappelle's Show," which could have probably had a few more good seasons left, but you guys didn't want the show to get cheesy, it had a good run, it was what it was, and it's time to move on...

Yeah, right, Dave's another guy who is just a great comic. I think that whole thing overshadowed how great a comic he is. Now it seems I'm going that way. But people need to do what they feel and that can become a very tough thing to do. The guy [Chapelle] loves comedy. If you've seen him live, that's a testimony to that.

Anything else?

Just getting the DVD of "Dave's Old Porn" together which will be real cool. And you and rest of Chicago should come out to the show this weekend. It will be two nights Friday and Saturday and it won't be sold out, so don't worry.

Perfect. That's my kind of show...

[Laughs] Exactly. It's an old man's struggle.


Check out Dave Attell and Danny Kallas tonight and tomorrow, Sat., July 13, at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse; there will be two shows each night at 8pm & 10:30pm. Tickets are $33 and are available online; for more information, call 773-381-4554.

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