Dave Attell settles down - to porn

By Rich Tupica

Former 'Insomniac' hell-raiser ages ungracefully at Connxtions

After being a stand-up comic for 25 years, Dave Attell has learned the trick to writing hilarious, genuine bits: live a long, rough life.

“Standup isn’t like professional tennis or football,” he said. “The more you fail in life the better your comedy will be.” Attell brings his self-deprecating, brash comedy to Connxtions Comedy Club Friday.

“So, if you start out really young, I don’t know what kind of stories you’ll have to tell – but God bless you, because it’s a long haul. It’s not like America’s Got Talent. It’s night after night of faceless crowds in nameless clubs.”

The Long Island native is largely known for staggering through a different town every week in his influential reality show, “Insomniac with Dave Attell,” which aired on Comedy Central from 2001 to 2004.

But staunch comedy fans recognize the 47-year-old for vulgar comedy albums like 2003’s “Skanks for the Memories,” which covers subjects like masturbation, bestiality, religion, and heavy boozing.

Trashy topics notwithstanding, Attell’s comedy is smart. It’s for people who prefer Bill Hicks over Larry the Cable Guy.

“I do material for actual fans of comedy,” Attell said. “I do it for the people who know my act and know it’s going to be kind of dirty and politically incorrect. I’m not saying that to sound like a badass or anything, I’m just a filthy, dirty, club comic.”

For many fans, Attell’s persona is forever fixed as the hard-drinking, peripatetic rake, partying until sunrise on “Insomniac.” But Attell insisted he’s now older, wiser, and sober, and he’ll tell the Connxtions crowd about his milder journey out of the party life.

“Being on the road at 47 is not the same as it was at 27,” he said. “When I used to show up to a town, I’d drink and hit up the strip clubs and then go back to the hotel. Now I just go back to the hotel. You have money in your pocket, but there’s no sense of glory or adventure.”

Not that Attell has time to spare. Aside from touring the comic circuit, he’s delving into porn — in a way. He’s hosted the Adult Video Network Awards twice, including this year. He’s also preparing for the second season of his new show, “Dave’s Old Porn,” on Showtime. On the weekly show, Attell chats with celebrity guests and adult film stars about classic VHS adult videos. He called it “the Mystery Science Theater of porn.”

“I riff on the porn clips with comics I know. Some are really famous, some are just super funny.”

Guest comedians on the show, which starts back up in the fall, have included Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, Margaret Cho, Adam Carolla, Bill Burr, and Greg Fitzsimmons.

Attell also invites porn legends to talk about their movies. “It’s totally unscripted and pretty much uncensored,” he added. “We show as much as possible because, as a fan of porn and comedy, I’m trying to give people the full Monty, if you will.”

While Attell wants to focus on writing new stand-up material, producing “Dave’s Old Porn” has been demanding. “It’s really much more work than you’d think,” he said. “Everybody watches porn, but they don’t really watch it. They just watch it up to the point where they don’t need it anymore. I have to watch the entire porn and listen to all of the dialogue. I find all of the guests, too.”

He took a moment to let the idea sink in.

“Think about it – watching a porno from beginning to end! It sounds like a Guantanamo Bay nightmare.”

Many say comedy’s heyday was in the 1980s, when hundreds of clubs like Connxtions popped up across the country. Attell feels today’s comedians are stronger than ever, but society isn’t always watching, unless it’s on the Web.

“We’re in the Golden Age of comedy, but it’s definitely not the Golden Age of audiences,” Attell said. “People enjoy comedy, but it’s just easier to sit at home and click and surf. When I was younger, we had two choices: stay in and huff paint, or go out and do something. Now there’s video games, virtual porn sites – there’s a million things to do. Getting them out of the house and into the club is difficult.”

In short, he’s looking for people who are willing to go out and have a wild night — the kind of guy he used to be. “People don’t do that as much as they should anymore,” he lamented.

Dave Attell

Connxtions Comedy Club

2900 N. East St., Lansing

8 p.m. and 10:30 Friday, Feb. 17