Dave Attell could probably care less about what you think about his new comedy special, Road Work. That’s just the kind of guy he is. Or at least the kind of guy he seems to be. On stage, he’s unapologetic, fiery and, as always, hilariously vulgar. He’s been called the funniest man alive by Amy Schumer and the Leonard Cohen of dick jokes by Patton Oswalt. He’s been known around the funny people community as most comedians’ favorite comedian. And as he showcases in Road Work, he hasn’t lost any touch at all.
For his first special in 10 years, Attell takes to the road and skips the fancy theatre gig you see in all of today’s comedy specials. He sticks to what he knows best: dinky comedy clubs with great reputations. Instead of one location and one audience, Attell filmed in five different cities and edited the show with a guerilla-film technique that makes for a more laid back and personal performance. Before each of the shows—which take place in New Jersey, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Massachusetts and New Orleans—Attell greets the crowd with a camera in hand and kindly forces a front-rower to film the close-ups. There aren’t crane shots above the stage or a variety of angles either; the main cameraman shares each 12-foot stage with Attell throughout the tour, having the lens right up in his face and even kicking over the comedian’s daiquiri in one instance.
With all of this low-budget production going on, Attell has more room to play. And anyone familiar with his work will know that Attell is best when he’s allowed to play, when he’s free to interact. That’s why this format works so well for him, because he’s able to make a prison shower joke when his cameraman walks behind him on stage or when he notices that one of the audience-member-turned-camera-operator isn’t moving because he’s filming “like it’s his child’s first steps.”
The way this also works for Attell is how he’s able to adapt from city to city. When a comic goes on a tour or films a special, you can imagine how sometimes the set can be a little stagnant without audience interaction or city-specific jokes. But in Road Work, it’s all about where he is. Whether it’s Philly (he never knows which end the cheesesteaks are gonna come out of), Minneapolis (such a white town that if Christian Mingle was a place…), or New Orleans (where people trade valuable for clean needles and baby wipes), it’s always new, always specific and always hysterical.
As expected, Attell doesn’t hold back on disgusting and self-deprecating humor. He confesses that his genitals look more and more like a tent that no one knows how to fold and that on his best day his junk smells like a foot. His transitions make no sense at all, going from sex toys to his wishful plans of having a family, and the absurdity only makes it funnier. There too many sex jokes to count, plenty of eye rolls directed at the crowd when a gag about Sandusky or Honey Boo Boo get more “oohs” than laughs, and there’s a bit about a show he once did for special needs children that easily stands out as one of the most cruel and unusually funny parts of the show.
What’s most impressive about Attell and this format is how easy it seems to him. The jokes write themselves when you’ve got a mind like his. He’s smart, ruthless and has a motorbike for a mouth (a dirty one at that). The only objection someone would have is that the special only runs 40 minutes instead of the normal hour-long show. But besides that, a comedy fan will have no complaints about Road Work. You know what you’re getting when Dave Attell takes the stage. He even lets you know right off the bat:
“Alright folks, we’re in for a dirty mess of a show.”