Northeast Times

 Articles by Rita Charleston

Dave Attell is a ‘Comedian’s Comedian’

He admitted that his original motivation to perform stand-up comedy was attributed to his indecisiveness as to what he should do after college. Graduating from New York University with a degree in film and television, Dave Attell said he realized he’d probably never go on to become an actor or a director.“And so that’s when I started hanging around comedy clubs in New York during open-mic nights, although I never thought I’d actually become a comic either,” said Attell, 47, who did become a performer and will appear at the Helium Comedy Club on Sansom Street in Center City this Friday and Saturday.During the late 1980s, Attell worked at menial jobs during the day and at comedy clubs on nights and weekends.“I was a kind of a loner, a shy kind of kid who could make his inner circle of friends laugh,” he recalled. “So that’s what sort of kept me going. At home, I loved listening to the records of comics like George Carlin, and I couldn’t stop laughing myself. I loved to laugh, but it took a long time to convince people I was a comic.”After years of honing his craft, and “totally bombing often,” he eventually found himself being described as a “comedian’s comedian.” And while audience members didn’t always follow his delivery, fellow comedians were refreshed by his originality.One of his biggest breaks came in 1993 when he made his first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. That appearance was seen by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, who recruited Attell to be a writer and occasional performer. He gladly accepted, and two years later found himself featured on two HBO specials, with a half-hour comedy special all his own in 1997.But perhaps he is best known as the host of his own show titled Insomniac with Dave Attell, which ran from 2001 to ’04 on Comedy Central. For that show, Attell went to a particular city at night, starting out with a minute or so of his performance at a comedy club, and then to various bars, landmarks, clubs and so on. The thrill of the show revolved around the bizarre denizens of the night that he encountered, mostly while wandering cities in America and abroad.During most interviews, Attell said he is asked about that part of his life, but never gets tired of talking about it.“To be honest,” he said, “it was such an easy show to do, that there’s not much to talk about. But I do talk about it over and over and over again. It’s kind of my Abu Ghraib prison.“The point is,” he added, “that I came up with the idea for the show, which originally was just supposed to be a fun travel show. It was totally unscripted, with the whole idea behind it being that no one sleeps.”In 2008, Attell began hosting another show, The Gong Show with Dave Attell for Comedy Central. Like the 1970s version, the show had a rotating panel of celebrity judges grading unusual people and their acts — something that Attell was more than familiar with.Today, Attell is the creator and host of Dave’s Old Porn on Showtime, featuring legends of the adult industry, along with such talents as Chelsea Handler, Adam Carolla and Daniel Tosh, who discuss the flicks. The second season will begin airing this fall.Still, he admitted, he loves doing stand-up and appearing at comedy clubs around the country.“Over the years, I’ve been in four films, but I’m not an actor, and I’m not a very good sitcom guy — as producers come to find out,” he said. “Of course, if something came along, I’d jump on it, but I love just being out there, being funny and entertaining people. For me, that’s the best.” For show times and ticket information, call 215-496-9001.

Crossover quartet blends four unique voices

The classical crossover quartet comprised of the Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, baritone Carlos Marin of Spain, French pop artist Sebastien Izambard, and American tenor David Miller first came together in 2003, the culmination of an exhaustive search by music producer Simon Cowell to find four singers of distinctive individual gifts who could, as a group, create musical magic.“Simon wanted a group that he could enjoy listening to, and scoured the planet looking for a group of guys whose voices and personalities would blend well, and whose work ethic would be over the top,” said Miller. “And so here we are today, nine years later, and known collectively as Il Divo.”But it took some time to work out the kinks, said Miller, now joining his fellow Il Divo members in a world tour that will take the stage at the Mann Center on June 9.“In the beginning, our voices and our temperaments didn’t mesh, but the work ethic was always there,” added Miller. “And eventually we learned how to blend our voices and ourselves, and throughout the process we were able to pair that with what we call our locker room sense of humor [and] that has helped get us through the most stressful times.”Although from different backgrounds, English is the language that has become their main mode of communication. “Everyone’s vocabulary has gotten up to speed, although we all speak a smattering of all other languages in which we sing — mainly French, Italian and German,” he said.Indeed, when Il Divo first emerged, the group presented a problem for those who felt a need to pigeonhole their music. Was it opera? Pop-opera? Musical theater?“Actually, we don’t touch an operatic repertoire,” Miller said. “Purists would have our throats if we did. We have varied backgrounds, from doing opera to musical theater. But I think we are the originators of the term pop-opera, and one of the forerunners of the classical crossover genre. We have taken our four individual styles and experiences and tried to blend them seamlessly so that’s you can’t really quantify exactly what we do. But we, and our audiences we hope, do seem to enjoy it all.“Suffice it to say,” Miller continued, “we are not like anyone else. Others have tried to copy what we do, but there’s something quite unique about the combination of our voices and the style in which we present our songs.”With more than 25 million albums sold so far — including 150 gold and platinum discs, and the only crossover classical album to date — Miller said the only challenge the group faces is to communicate effectively with its audience.“I think that’s our primary responsibility,” Miller explained. “Our main priority is to convey the sense of emotion of the song we are singing. There is, of course, a certain comfort in singing in the language of the country we are visiting. But once you start listening to the lyrics you are not in your emotional space. So we make sure we sing in several languages to avoid that from happening.”The response to their music has been overwhelming, Miller said. ”In the beginning, nobody thought the huge success we are enjoying today would happen. We were simply groping in the dark. But it worked. And now, we’re just trying to continue to evolve and bring something new to our audiences. I think that’s really our biggest challenge.”For times and ticket information, visit