Interview: Dave Attell on Friendship and Bumping Mics Show with Jeff Ross

Jeff Ross and Dave Attell Bumping Mics


At 54 years old, with skin in the comedy game for three decades, Dave Attell is one of stand-up’s most audacious and instantly recognizable commodities. Foul-mouthed and inappropriately funny, his presence has been requested for more than a few Comedy Central series (including the famed 'Insomniac,' named for his long-running tour from the 1990s), as well as HBO’s brilliant but recently cancelled 'Crashing.' One of the few stand-up comedians who could hold their own on-stage with Attell – Jeff Ross, the man behind all of the Comedy Central network’s celebrity roasts – does so this weekend when the touring duo bring their 'Bumping Mics' showcase, first viewed on Netflix, to Atlantic City. We caught up with Attell waiting to tip his toes in the sand.

A.D. Amorosi: Several weeks ago I spoke with Dane Cook, when he stopped to tell me that one of the best tours he ever did was with YOU – the 'Insomniac' show. Do you feel as fondly about him as he did you?
Dave Attell: That’s really nice. At that time, I wasn’t doing really big theaters, so being with Dane – who had been rocking out the country in huge arena-like venues – was a cool experience, to be with him and see his crowd. They got to interact with my drunk 'Insomniac' crowd, which was more like a bar fight. Dane’s crowd though, he’s a good looking guy. We kept wondering, ‘hey, where’d all these models come from? Oh, it’s Dane’s crowd.’

A.D.: So Dane was the star of that particular go-round of 'Insomniac.'
Dave: Yeah, definitely. He can really hold a crowd. Not many comics can do that with a big stage. The tape that we did of that show with Greg Giraldo and Dave Rouse was fun. Sad, since Dave and Greg both passed away. The funniest moment from that tour was when a fire alarm went off during Greg’s set. Instead of running off, he used it to his advantage. That’s how great Greg was – so cool. He didn’t care if things weren’t going our way. He made it happen. A great comic and a great friend.

A.D. : If we’re sticking with friends, Jeff Ross and you are pretty tight, yes?
Dave: He’s basically one of the best out there – the Roast Master. We’re hitting it hard this holiday weekend. Last night, we were doing warm-up sets at (Manhattan’s) Comedy Cellar. We both don’t live in the same town, so we don’t see each other all the time. When we are together, though, we hang offstage. 'Bumping Mics' is basically a reason for us to hang out.

A.D.: Not that you’re sticking to script, but, looking at the Netflix special, 'Bumping Mics,' it is fair to say that neither of you would ever get confused with being PC. Having spoken to your fellow comedians, this is not the easiest time in which to be controversial – to discuss politics or make jokes with potential trigger warnings. How do you take a room’s temperature, then go for it?
Dave: Good question. Jeff just always pushes me to go farther. He’s far more topical and political than I am. My stuff is the evergreen thing. I might work more with a filter when I’m alone. I don’t want to dig a hole down, because then, I have to dig a hole out. I don’t want to preach or give a speech. With Jeff around, he likes to go for matters of social justice and political issues. I think though that the audience finds it refreshing if we don’t preach, and if we don’t make it all political.

A.D.: The silliness you both bring to the stage is very much like old school comedy.
Dave: Or old school hockey where everybody is getting hit, and knocked into the boards. I like that. Brings me back to the 80s and 90s when I get started.

A.D.: Was there any topic that was ultra-challenging that you considered changing or doing away with?
Dave: When we were editing the Netflix special, I was constantly thinking that we should pull out one thing or another. Jeff, though, was like ‘No. Leave it.’ Netflix never told us what to put in or leave out, which is cool – that’s the artist’s role. There are a lot of sex jokes and racial jokes that, if you didn’t see the crowds laughing, you would think they didn’t get. Our audiences get us, though. They want us to go there, and if they don’t, they’ll tell us immediately. The Netflix series was cool, because we brought out guests like Amy Schumer and Bruce Willis. Then there was Gilbert Gottfried, who if you’re going to talk about not having a filter, he definitely the third leg in this wobbly table of laughter. He has no filter. When he’s locked in, he’s amazing to watch. It’s like an old gun – you can see it being loaded, then it goes ‘BOOM.’

A.D.: Between your guests and the two of you, comics love watching you guys work.
Dave: Everything goes. Anyone who is part of the show gets it. It’s cool to just let it all out, and roll. 'Bumping Mics' was not as tight as I would do my own special – not so much dead air – but, Jeff and I complement each other.

A.D. : I don’t see that as dead air. I see those pauses as one would hear rests in a great symphony.
Dave: That’s the nicest thing that anyone has ever said about anything I have ever done.

'Bumping Mics' with Dave Attell and Jeff Ross is Saturday, March 25 at 8 PM (sold out) and 11 PM at The Music Box at Borgata, 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Tickets: $59; $49
Visit or use this direct link to tix for 11 PM show.

Photo courtesy of The Borgata

Posted on Saturday, May 25, 2019