David Attell (born 1964 or 1965) is an American stand-up comedian, actor and writer best known as the host of Comedy Central’s Insomniac with Dave Attell, which earned him a cult following. His work has drawn admiration from such fellow comics as Patton Oswalt and Bill Burr.
Attell was born in the New York City borough of Queens to a Jewish family. He was raised in Rockville Centre, New York, on Long Island. He graduated from South Side High School.
After graduating from New York University in 1987 with a degree in communications, Attell began performing at open-mic nights.
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.
On November 23, 1993, 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 “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. Attell’s first one-hour special, Captain Miserable aired December 8, 2007, on HBO. His latest special Road Work aired 2014 on Comedy Central.
In 2018 he toured with Jeff Ross on the Bumping Mics Tour. Over the last three days of the tour they taped a three-part documentary series for Netflix. Interspersed footage showcases the duo’s interactions both off-stage and on as they return to the Comedy Cellar, where a spontaneous first performance marked the birth of their ensemble act.
In 1995, Attell appeared as Squiggly Dave on Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist. In 1999, the network issued Attell an installment in their Comedy Central Presents series.
The same year the network signed him as a regular commentator to its satirical news series The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, on which he appeared for three years. Attell’s commentary segment was called “The Ugly American”. He returned for finale episode of host Stewart’s tenure. In 2003, Attell began appearing semi-regularly on Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. The show featured many of the performers he works with at the New York City 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.
In July 2008, Attell began hosting The Gong Show with Dave Attell for Comedy Central. Like the 1970s version, the show had a rotating panel of celebrity judges grading unusual acts.
Other notable television roles featuring Attell:
In January 2010, he co-hosted the AVN Awards show, along with porn actresses Kirsten Price and Kayden Kross; and again in 2012 with co-hostesses Sunny Leone and Bree Olson.
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 is 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 (twice), 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 non-American cities featured on the show were Amsterdam, Dublin, London, Montreal, Tijuana, Toronto, and specials that took place in Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
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 still camera and took pictures of random events, which would be shown during the end credits.
In 2003, The Best of Insomniac Uncensored (Vol. 1) and The Best of Insomniac Uncensored (Vol. 2) were released.
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.
Attell played the role of “Don” in Los Enchiladas!, a film written, produced and directed by comedian Mitch Hedberg, starring Hedberg as well as fellow comedians Todd Barry and Marc Maron.
In the short film The Office Party, Attell once again played the role of “Don”. The film co-starred ex-Karate Kid Ralph Macchio, Jon Stewart, Carol Kane and Tate Donovan. The film was written and directed by Daily Show producer Chiara Edmands.
Pootie Tang saw Attell as the bumbling corporate lackey, “Frank”. The film was written and directed by his friend Louis C.K. It co-starred Lance Crouther, Wanda Sykes and Chris Rock among others.
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.
Attel had a cameo appearance in the Judd Apatow film Funny People which starred Adam Sandler (an old friend of Attell’s from his New York University days).
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”.
He appeared in I Feel Pretty as the bartender in the bikini contest scene.
Attell provided humorous in-game commentary for the 2005 PlayStation 2 and Xbox game Outlaw Golf 2.
|1990||Caesar’s Salad||Policeman||Short Film|
|2000||The Office Party||Don||Short Film|
|2005||Crazy for Love||Efram|
|2006||Scary Movie 4||Knifeman|
|2008||The Great Buck Howard||Las Vegas Husband||Credited as David Attell|
|2010||Scooby-Doo! Abracadabra-Doo||The G.P.S. (voice)||Direct-to-video|
|2018||I Feel Pretty||Really Tan Dude|
|2003||Skanks for the Memories…||album|
|2006||Hey, Your Mouth’s Not Pregnant!||DVD|
|1995–1997||Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist||Dave||2 episodes|
|1996–1997||Everybody Loves Raymond||Dave||2 episodes|
|2002||Crank Yankers||Frank Demore (voice)||Episode: “David Alan Grier & Dave Attell”|
|2003||Ed||Brad Campbell||Episode: “Business as Usual”|
|2005||New Car Smell||Harry||TV Movie|
|2013||Inside Amy Schumer||Ghost||Episode: “Terrible People”|
|2014||Louie||Dave||Episode: “So Did the Fat Lady”|
|2014||TripTank||Dave Attel (voice)||Episode: “Roy & Ben’s Day Off”|
|2014||Teachers Lounge||School Photographer|
|2015–2016||The Jim Gaffigan Show||Himself||3 episodes|
|2017||Bob’s Burgers||Scalper (voice)||Episode: “The Laser-inth”|
|2017||Difficult People||New York City (voice)||Episode: “Sweet Tea”|
|2018||The Simpsons||Luke (voice)||Episode: “Bart’s Not Dead”|
|2004||Outlaw Golf 2||Color Commentary|
|2009||Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust||Merv Wallski|