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Comedy Underground with Dave Attell
Photograph: Brad BarketComedy Underground with Dave Attell

Dave Attell delivers his nastiness to the nation

With new special Road Work and an uncensored series, Comedy Underground with Dave Attell, the filthy club personality is the happiest crank in comedy

For four nights in early December, high-volume profanity ricocheted off the basement walls of the historic Village Underground. Hosting the eight stand-up showcases making up a new Comedy Central series, Dave Attell couldn’t have been happier—well, as happy as the 25-year club veteran allows himself to be, anyway.

Sure, there were some technical issues, and most of his guest comics went over their time. He poked fun at his TV prospects: “It’s always the same weather down here: partly funny with a chance of canceled!” Yet Comedy Central is not only embracing the former Insomniac host’s Comedy Underground with Dave Attell as its first-ever uncensored show, the network is also premiering Road Work, his first special in seven years, an hour prior to Underground’s debut on April 12. (The FCC relaxes its decency standards on programming that airs between 10pm and 6am.)

Tell me about the aesthetic of Road Work.

I really don’t like the look of the specials now. They’re always in a theater and it’s like a big to-do with a background and all that kinds of stuff. I’m not that kind of comic. So I wanted to do it where I do comedy, which is in clubs all over the country. We would give a member of the audience a camera, so they’re kind of our third cameraman, and I talk to them. It’s not a new idea. I think Radiohead did it best, so we’re going kind of a low, low budget version of that.

It’s been, what, seven years since Captain Miserable?
See, I’m not good at turning out specials the way people do now. People do them, like, every year; I can’t do that. I just don’t have the material. My stuff is really—I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but—caca peepee doodie stuff.

We’ll use asterisks.
That’s the kind of material I have right now. The network did give us some notes [on Road Work] but at the end of the day, it is pretty much a raw, uncensored special. I know that my crowds like that. I’m just hoping that on a network, on a bigger platform, people will appreciate that, you know? And then on the download.

As a digital version.
Well, all that stuff scares me. I don’t believe in any of it. I really hate to self-promote.

You’re doing a fine job.
I am, right? I’m whoring it up!

About your aversion to the digital universe: Don’t you think somebody in the Midwest or different countries might get turned on to comedy through the Internet?
I would say the Web is good and it’s bad. Because it got people into the whole experience of just [watching a show] without having to give out the energy that [new performers] need, especially at the open mikes, these bringer shows. Because you need to perform in front of a real crowd.
These young millennial types, they really don’t know how to act [at the club]. They don’t want to be a target, they don’t want to be picked on, but besides that, they don’t know what to do. They know that the world they live in is a digital world, you know?

Road Work is closer to the real experience of seeing live comedy.
Yes! And the Underground show too—I’m really proud of the comics who did it, by the way. It looks like a club show, the audience is right there. It’s good material,it’s uncensored and these comics are raw, edgy, dirty, funny comics. It’s going to be late at night, so I don’t think anybody should have a problem with it—but I’m sure someone will.
I really do hope it catches on, not for me, but for the comics. Because hard-joke comedy is in flux right now. There’s a lot of storytelling, a lot of podcasts, but just hard, dirty jokes—there’s just too much Web hate on it and too much PC now to really get that kind of material out, you know? And here’s the thing about New York, since this is Time Out: It was a late, dirty, filthy, fun town. Now it’s so many bikes, so many baby carriages. This show is late-night dirty comedy, and I’m hoping that there’s still an audience for it. I would like to be pleasantly surprised.

What’s your experience been working with Comedy Central?
The network has been pretty cool. They listened to me and they let me be super involved, and I guess you can’t ask for anything more for that. And I give them credit for going out on a limb and doing the uncensored stuff, because like I said, it really is the tipping point now, of whether we’re going to be some PC, judgmental group of Twitterers, or fall through the wall and do it.

The idea of it being uncensored is a good marketing hook, but you’d be the right person to help pull it off.
I hope so. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m an old has-been. These are my Love Boat years.

You’re so Zen about it.
Yeah, I’m cool with it. I could care less. As long as I get to keep doing what I do, then I’m fine.
Road Work and Comedy Underground with Dave Attell premiere on Comedy Central April 12.
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