Dubbed a comedian's comedian by his peers, stand-up comic Dave Attell's sardonic wit and hilarious non-sequiturs made him famous in comedy clubs across the country and in living rooms, thanks to a number of Comedy Central and HBO specials. A New Yorker through and through, Attell rose to fame on the improv stage but hit the big time as host and creator of Comedy Central's "Insomniac with Dave Attell" (2001-03). Once named one of Entertainment Weekly magazine's "25 Funniest People in America," Attell wrote for "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) and appeared as a commentator on "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central, 1999- ). He tried to jumpstart a career in features, but small roles in movies like "Pootie Tang" (2001) and "Scary Movie 4" (2006) did him no favors. Attell did, however, reach the height of his stand-up profession with a coveted one-hour HBO special, "Dave Attell: Captain Miserable" (2007), while maintaining a steady presence on Comedy Central. Though he had yet to achieve superstar status, Attell remained one of the most respected and hardest working comics in the business.
Born Jan. 18, 1965 in Queens, NY, Attell grew up on Long Island. After graduating with a degree in film and television from New York University in 1987, Attell had difficulty finding work. It was while waiting tables in New York that he began to hit the open mic comedy circuit. Working odd jobs during the day, Attell found his home on the improv stage, performing his first gig at Governor's Comedy Club on Long Island. Though his dry humor often struck out with audiences, his sets often drew in the other comedians on the bill. Attell made his television stand-up debut in 1988 on "Stand-Up Spotlight" (VH1, 1988-2002), hosted by Rosie O'Donnell and featuring up-and-coming comics like Jay Mohr, Margaret Cho and Lewis Black. A bigger break for the comedian came in 1993 when he made his debut on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993-2015). After seeing him perform stand-up on the late night talk show, producer Lorne Michaels approached Attell about writing and performing on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). A no-brainer for any comic, Attell leaped at the chance, writing for the duration of the 1993-94 season and often appearing in sketches as well.
Following his brief stint on "SNL," Attell was featured on two HBO specials, the "Young Comedians Special" (1995) alongside fellow comedians Dave Chappelle, Anthony Clark and Louis C.K, and his very own special on "HBO Comedy Half-Hour" (1995). Attell next appeared as the voice of Squiggly Dave on Comedy Central's popular animated series "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist" (1995-99), establishing a report with the network that later led to him being featured in an installment of "Comedy Central Presents" in 1999. Attell went on to work as a regular commentator on the satirical news series "The Daily Show" (Comedy Central, 1999- ). Arriving on the series after the departure of previous host, Craig Kilborn, Attell found himself starring alongside fellow New York comedian Jon Stewart, an old friend from his comedy club days. Working on the series for three years, Attell created a hilarious commentary piece called "The Ugly American," which was a big hit with viewers.
A self-proclaimed insomniac, Attell pitched a show idea to Comedy Central in 2001; a camera crew would follow him, post-comedy gig, as he hit the bars and clubs of each town on his comedy tour. The hit travelogue series, "Insomniac with Dave Attell" (2001-03) was born and became a success for Comedy Central. The series, which Attell described as a cross between "Girls Gone Wild" and "Cops," allowed the comedian to combine two of his favorite pastimes: booze and comedy. Also at the time, he began showing up in features with a supporting role in the forgettable comedy "Pootie Tang" (2001). Meanwhile, after four seasons on "Insomniac," Attell filmed a series of hour-long specials of the travel series, taking the show to Japan, England, Germany and Brazil. In 2003, Attell made regular appearances on the short-lived controversial show "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn" alongside fellow comedians from Greenwich Village's Comedy Cellar club. As an established comedian, Attell hosted his own comedy special, "The Insomniac Tour" (2005), featuring new comic talents like Sean Rouse, Greg Geraldo, and Dane Cook. The following year, Attell made an appearance on comedian Carlos Mencia's series, "Mind of Mencia" (Comedy Central, 2005-08).
Attell reached the height of the stand-up comedy circuit when he landed his first one-hour special, "Dave Attell: Captain Miserable" (HBO, 2007), in which he delivered his patented non-sequitur humor on topics like abortion, bad hand jobs, Jägermeister, and racist dinosaurs. Continuing to appear on Comedy Central, which had become something of a home, he served as the host of "The Gong Show with Dave Attell" (2008), a retread of the famed 1970s game show that failed to register with audiences and made a quick exit after only a few aired episodes. Meanwhile, Attell tried to maintain a steady presence on the big screen in movies like "Scary Movie 4" (2006), "Harold" (2008) and "The Great Buck Howard" (2009), but failed to land that one breakout role that could propel his career to the next level. He still appeared regularly on television, however, making his presence known on the IFC series, "Z Rock" (2008-09), and the Internet-themed comedian showcase, "Tosh.0" (Comedy Central, 2009- ).