Dave Attell has been performing standup comedy for close to 30 years. Or 29, if you want to get technical.
Gone, he says, are the days of bouncing from club to club in New York City, massaging and fine-tuning bits until the wee hours of the morning.
Attell argues that instant gratification of social media and nearly nonexistent attention span among Americans has made it tougher than it has ever been for young comedians trying to break into the business.
“If you’re a plumber, you have to have a Twitter account. As comics, that’s the real job now,” Attell says during a phone interview with The Elucidator. “You can’t just be a comic. There is a lot of pressure on a 22-year-old … When I was growing up, if you took a picture of yourself, you’d get beat up.”
As our culture has grown more politically correct, the result has forced Attell to reapproach his craft. He now goes into a set anticipating the inevitable groan or two from the crowd. Such reaction has become par for the course, Attell acknowledges. “I know how to read a crowd. Sometimes, I’ll see a really well-dressed couple (in the audience) and think, ‘It’s not like they’re going to see Celine Dion’,” he jokes. “I’m such a down and dirty comic.”
Though it used to irritate him, Attell has grown accustomed to such a response. “I’m not the best comic, but I do know how to hold the stage,” Attell says.
Attell will return April 15 to the Lehigh Valley for two headlining performances at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem. He previously performed there in October 2014. “Bethlehem, I have to give you guys major props. Everyone there is built for incredibly hard work,” he says. “I’m sure I could throw a hammer at one of you and you could build something.”
Born in Queens and growing up in Nassau County, Attell’s New York upbringing has long been part of Attell’s humor and style — whether it was his televised interactions with rowdy bar patrons on Comedy Central’s “Insomniac with Dave Attell” or presenting critical narratives of low-budget 1970s and ‘80s porn as host of Showtime’s “Dave’s Old Porn.”
Attell remembers his early days of performing four or five sets in a single night during his initial foray into stand-up comedy. Jokes would evolve over the course of a few hours as Attell and others honed their craft in front of rounds of new faces, he says. “The good thing about New York is we are spoiled because we have a lot of clubs and a later sound,” he says. “New York City is an international town, but very much has its own identity.”
However, the lines have become blurred and less distinct when it comes to performing from coast to coast, Attell says. Perception is always different than reality, he argues.
“You used to be able to tell the difference where a comic was from … Now, through the web and through the way it is, no one is regional anymore,” Attell says. “I’m a Jewish kid from Long Island. I would (travel) to Indiana and go, ‘Look, a real farm!’ That was the cool part of it.”
The 51-year-old comedian continues to be a regular face on the late-night talk show circuit. His third stand-up special, “Road Work,” was released in 2014 through Comedy Central. (Attell in 1999 was featured in an episode of “Comedy Central Presents.”) The special was filmed at four different comedy clubs over the course of a cross-country stand-up tour.
Last year, friend and fellow comedian Amy Schumer tapped Attell for a minor role as the main character Amy‘s homeless friend Noam in the hit film “Trainwreck.”
Attell is grateful for the support he has received over the years. “I have the best fans. Really, they are the ones who keep you going,” Attell says.
Dave Attell performs 8 and 10:30 p.m. at Musikfest Cafe, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem. Tickets cost $29-$39 in advance, $34-$39 at the door. Information: 610-332-3378, steelstacks.org