Culture Rover

# 16 - Staying Up Late So You Don't Have To

Dave Attell's Insomniac

Now entering its fourth season, the Comedy Central show Insomniac takes us on a low-budget, one-camera jaunt through the drunken, night-owl streets of the world with jovial host Dave Attell.

Starting with the show's herky-jerky, monkey-and-organ grinder, absurdo-noir theme song, the show stumbles around a different city's bars, dance halls, and after-hours clubs each week.

Sure, there's lots of drinking, and the typical bit of leering at the ladies. But Attell and his faithful camera man Brian also take us to the strange and wonderful jobs people do overnight (sewage plants, doughnut factories, newspaper printing presses), to strange urban events (the wooden penis parade in Tokyo), to landmarks (the actual little rock of Little Rock, Arkansas, which Attell has trouble locating, since, of course, it's so little), to many a queer event, and to wanderings, flaneur-like, through the streets between, where strange freaks o' the night ramble home after one too many.

What makes this show so wonderful is that in an age of mean comedy and spiteful reality shows on which the main point is to make the viewer sweat that the camera might one day unmercifully turn its leer on him or her, Attell spreads a mood of camaraderie and good cheer. There's a warmth to his brand of humor, a silly appreciation of how creative and goofy humanity can be. He cracks many a one-liner, but he also lets others make the jokes, such as when he asks the winners of a thong contest at Mother's in Chicago if they have advice for those who want to enter this game of fun. "Drink milk," one of the contestants replies slyly, without hesitation.

Attell may play the balding, paunchy, middle-aged drunk, but his is the kind of drunkenness that results in singalongs and bonding by last call, not taunting and fist fights. There's a Beat feeling of the Great American Night on the show, of people playing and working, living and giggling out there across the land -- and, as the show has gone global, across the world.

27 September 2004

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