"It's a travel show for losers, but people like it. I think a lot of it has to do with the drinking," says Attell. On each show, he guzzles alcohol. "I try to eat a big meal before we film, because I know I have to soak up a lot of booze. And my tolerance varies. One night I can have ten shots and feel fine; on another I have one and I'm loaded."
Insomniac features both impromptu encounters and preplanned segments. "There's a bar and a gay bar in every town," he says, "but we also try to look for an interesting job to cover." To that end, the comedian has moonlighted as everything from a coal miner to a crime-scene cleanup man to a voice-over artist for porno films. He's also artificially inseminated a cow. One of Attell's best characteristics, though, is that he's never condescending to the employees. Even the sewage plant guys.
Still, the bulk of each show takes place in the bars, and the size and attitude of the crowd is always different. "We're always promised great and wild things that they tell our scouting team," he says, "but sometimes you show up and it's just the guy and his brother."
Insomniac has gone European in this fourth (and last) season, hitting a number of cities across the Atlantic. In Amsterdam, Attell successfully committed each of the seven deadly sins while visiting a live sex show, a hash bar, the Museum of Torture and a huge international flower market. But the overseas trip was not without some setbacks.
"We were filming before the war in Iraq started, so it was hard to do a fun show with people calling us imperialistic warmongers," he says. "But it's nothing worse than the heckling I've gotten on stage."
Attell, a New York native, has been doing stand-up for 17 years, although he wasn't always sure he'd made the right career choice. "Every year I got closer to the cutoff point of joining the navy, it made me rethink what I was doing," he says. "But I'm at the stage now where I can draw a pretty cool crowd that likes to drink and doesn't take things too seriously."
During a trip to Houston last year to film an episode, Attell says, he had the most fun hanging out with local low- riders and going behind the scenes at AstroWorld. The show's dirty little secret? According to an Austin newspaper, each episode is filmed over two nights rather than the purported one.
Attell's been a busy man lately. In addition to touring the comedy circuit and filming Insomniac, he's released a DVD of show highlights and his first comedy CD, Skanks for the Memories. With such a long stretch in the Bayou City, Attell is sure he'll have some fun here.
"Houston's a great drinking town, and last call is at 2 a.m.," he notes. "That's an hour later than Omaha!"
8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 19, and Sunday, June 22. 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 20, and Saturday, June 21. The Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray. For information, call 713-524-2333 or visit www.laffstop.com. $18.50 to $20.50. Insomniac airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Comedy Central.