Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

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,, 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.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Speaking of...

Latest in Night & Day

More by Byron Kerman

Read the Digital Print Issue

June 16, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2021 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation