Judge Chris Claro lost sleep over this review.
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Unless they record it for DVD.
As an art form, standup comedy hit its peak in the early 90s, when brick-walled comedy clubs reached critical mass. Confluent with the rise of cable and its insatiable appetite for programming, standup was everywhere: malls, bowling alleys, colleges. Soon, people had had enough of witty insights into airplane food, racial differences, and ribald nursery rhymes. For every Seinfeld or Tim Allen who rocketed into the stratosphere, there were 50 other comics who couldn't even reach the launchpad.
But even as its popularity faded, and clubs across the country shut their doors in the absence of true funny, plenty of road warriors continued to ply their trade. A handful of those veterans, still standing and still pretty funny, are featured on Dave Attell's Insomniac Tour Uncensored, produced by Comedy Central.
The tour gets its name from Attell's funky and original Comedy Central series, Insomniac, wherein the comic would take viewers on an alcohol-soaked, post-performance ride through the night in cities around the world. Attell's act, peppered as it is with references to dead hookers, club-footed women, and sex with midgets, belied his winning way with just folks and made Insomniac a real delight. He'd have a blast pounding shots and blasting nutria outside New Orleans or fishing at three AM up in Anchorage, and he did it all with gusto and without condescension.
Recorded at the Las Vegas House of Blues, Insomniac Tour Uncensored features Attell as ringleader of a quartet of comics. Opener is Sean Rouse, arguably the least-known of the foursome. While Rouse's material is generally tepid, his low-key sarcasm is effective at landing the jokes. His subject matter, which covers the standard bases of relationships and growing up Catholic, is uninspired. Compared to the other comics, Rouse seems to be rounding out the bill.
Greg Giraldo is another longtime standup comedian and even has a short-lived sitcom to his credit (Criminal Law from 1997). As the put-upon married guy of the Insomniac foursome, he brings a refreshing perspective to a form usually filled with nihilistic single dudes. Though he's another comic going to the well of trite subjects—men vs. women, American gluttony—he does so with a rapier wit and a bilious outlook that makes his material fresh. Among his noteworthy targets are people who give up chocolate for Lent: "Ooh…just like being nailed to a cross!"
The show closes with the appearance of a true standup phenomenon, Dane Cook. One of the first comics to really exploit the Internet, Cook has achieved a rock-star vibe not seen in comedy since the heyday of Sam Kinison. Utilizing such sites as myspace.com, Cook has managed to hit heights—such as being the only standup comic to host Saturday Night Live in years—that are only dreamed of by other comics (though some say his popularity is due more to his self-promotion and less to his material).
It's true that Cook's charisma outweighs the strength of his material, but the crowd is with him from the second he hits the stage. His reception is reminiscent of Steve Martin's ascendance to super stardom in the late '70s in that the audience is much more enamored of the comedian than the comedy.
The extras included on Dave Attell's Insomniac Tour Uncensored are an uninspired lot of off-stage and backstage clips featuring the comics ambling, gambling and indulging one of Vegas's famous buffets. Though the comics' "process" might be an arduous, none-too-visual one, it seems that the producers of this disc would have better served the audience with something more about the way these guys come up with their material rather than a bunch of tired outtakes.
While hardly revolutionary, Dave Attell's Insomniac Tour Uncensored is a decent look for fans of standup. Featuring three pros and one guy who show some promise, it's 98 minutes of comedy that goes down easy.
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