Dave Attell is, several layers down, a man who is not unmoved by the button-eyed charms of a monkey. One hears a lot about Attell's edgy side -- and thanks to regular "The Ugly American" features on The Daily Show, his shaved head, stevedore's build and sharp commentary are now familiar to people who keep up with that sort of thing. Those people, and the rest of you, should know that Attell's stand-up act includes both carefully crafted bitterness and surprising, wild arcs of fantasy.
Said musings are not entirely childlike wonder. Attell has a bit on the lighter side of kidnapping, and some jesting suggests that the man needs a date, preferably with a human female and really in a hurry. In fact, the monkey thing goes from delightfully boyish to kind of nasty. But only kind of. Attell's speculation is too weird to be genuinely nasty. What you may have seen on TV -- on Dr. Katz, Drew Carey roasts, HBO or whatever -- was no doubt funny, but perhaps without the depth and intimacy Attell offers in a live show. He can be especially intimate with people who stare up, blinking like frogs, instead of appreciating his humor. All part of the wonderful, perverse package.
Calling from the good ol' road, Attell swears that Houston is one of the cities that he can in fact distinguish from other cities on an endless tour of lousy motels and indiscriminate clubs. He also expresses interest in hooking up with a filly, getting himself a "fancy thang." More seriously, he plans to hit a museum and then get drunk. Truly seriously, he's reading Long Day's Journey into Night. This is not because he knows we Houstonians demand literate comedians. Attell says, "I'm trying to read all the books I should have read when I was 19. I like to read a serious book and then something like Enter the Intern." What did he read at 19? "When I was 19, I read Dune, over and over. I was reading it so hard I thought a girl would pop out of the book. Also, liner notes to Blue Öyster Cult albums." That's the man's story: nerdy in adolescence, desperately attempting to catch up and lonely now. Who can't relate?
Dave Attell performs Wednesday through Sunday, November 17 through 21, at 8 p.m. (and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday) at the Laff Stop, 1952 West Gray, (713)524-2333. $9-$12.50.
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