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Comedy for the Devil 

The hellishly funny Dave Attell makes ready for a hot time at the Funny Bone

At Dave Attell's Web site, www.daveattell.com, the comedian stars in a series of vignettes called "Doing Time." In the first installment, the bald, scuzzy Attell freaks out at a child's birthday party and begins punching one of the puppets in a puppet show, then randomly swings a 2-by-4 amid the guests. Mention is made of a previous escapade involving "a fifth of whiskey, nude hang-gliding and a girls' soccer camp."

The mature-audiences-only performer stands apart from the pack not just for his sick sense of humor but for his delivery. He comes across as a caustic wiseass chained to the concept of deep sarcasm. As the animated Attell once said to his counselor on the Comedy Central cartoon Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, on the subject of opera: "Look how much it takes to bore me." Onstage, with his shaved head and scruffy beard growth, he opines in a smoking-induced bellow, "After bad things happen, you need a cigarette ... like, let's say, I don't know, you kill a guy with a hammer" or "My favorite plane crash -- and I know it's wrong to have a favorite..."

Attell is also a bit different from many of his fellow standup comedians in that he's not afraid to mock himself or the audience with snide little afterthoughts. When introduced for his own Comedy Central special, he took the stage and responded to applause with the expected "Thank you very much," then followed it with a campy "Back at ya" in this bitter tone that mocked the crowd for clapping. Other times he makes fun of the joke he has just made, although it earned laughter, with a withering string of gibberish. For example, when discussing the incongruously clean crowd that sometimes comes to his blue performances, he says, "I do shows where old people show up -- I don't know if it's either free passes or people bringing their grandparents out to punish them or something -- which makes me feel like the bad guy, and then I start drinking. Next thing you know, I'm at a cash machine, and I'm at a strip club and buh-buh-buh, buh-buh-buh-buh, cut to a blood test ..."

In his own small way, he is playing with the form and targeting the ritual of comedy itself. On the subject of job grind, he says, "They (the shows) all seem to kind of blend together as one long, droll nightmare." But his irascibility is just part of the act, right? "I'm not "on' all the time like some people," he claims, "but I'm not putting on a character."

The impish 35-year-old looks as if he has plenty of character, though, and describes his face as like that of "an alcoholic Andre Agassi ... or a gay marine biologist ... or a terrorist. I shave my head once a week as I look at the picture of a president -- I do the De Niro." His head somehow seems designed for devil horns. Go ahead, draw them in on his picture and see.

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