It’s a rare time for stand-up comedy when two of its biggest stars decide to hit the road together — even better when they’re both on stage at the same time. Comics Jeff Ross and Dave Attell have joined forces to create a sizzling new comedy show, and you can catch it Saturday, January 18th as Bumping Mics hits downtown’s Revention Music Center.
Ross is a force of nature in show business; he hasn’t missed a Comedy Central Roast since 2005 and is a producer of the program. He’s developed two other roast-related shows (Netflix’s Historical Roasts and Jeff Ross Presents: Roast Battle), all while maintaining his acting and standup careers.
His counterpart and enigmatic longtime friend, Attell, is entirely the opposite. One of the most successful and respected club comedians around, Attell prefers intimate live performance to the glitter of the silver screen.
Yet, when they take to the stage together, it feels like they were always built to operate in tandem. The two-man show features the duo effortlessly riffing, roasting, and palling around with celebrity guests. Watch the Bumping Mics three-part special on Netflix for a sampling of the festivities (and a surprisingly wonderful harmonica performance from Bruce Willis).
CultureMap caught up with the pair to talk about their tour and what its like to team up in their prime:
CultureMap: The Bumping Mics special on Netflix was unbelievable; you could tell a lot of effort was put into making it look effortless. How did all of that come together?
Jeff Ross: Well I appreciate you saying that. As a writer, you know that it does take effort. But when most people watch it, they think I'm just up there smoking pot and goofing off with my friend — which is what you want it to look like when you're done, but it's a lot of work. I guess it's a risk to do it, but in a lot of ways Dave allows me to up my game creatively. I play better when I play with LeBron [James], and he's LeBron.
Dave Attell: Jeff is a really great producer, I just saw it as a fun thing when we’re not on the road, to do but he really pushed us getting it in front of Netflix and seeing if it could be a series. He truly does have a great mind for it all and loves television. At the end of the day it’s about timing, when he and I sync up it just goes to the next level. Jeff does need to eat before the show, and then immediately afterwords. Which… it's not a marathon, it’s just two guys sitting and standing a little. Who gets hungry from sitting?
CM: You guys are obviously longtime friends but have such different approaches to comedy, how do you navigate that when performing together?
JR: Well, just to get him to do it, I had to beg. I had to threaten to quit. I threatened to call a homeless shelter on him. Traveling with Dave is like bringing along a building.
DA: Theres a lot of pressure I put on the show in terms of needing new material, gotta have new stuff for this and for my own act constantly. I work with a filter and Jeff doesn’t, he runs towards things much faster then I do. Our approach is different but the one skill set we both have is our ability to work a crowd and its made for some tremendous one of kind experiences. Heres the thing with Jeff though, right before we’re about to go on, thats when he has the most ideas. And I’m like you couldn’t have hit me with this an hour ago?
CM: Jeff you’re known as the Roastmaster General for your tenacity in the craft , how has roasting changed for you over the course of your career?
JR : I started doing it in the mid-’90s when I was just beginning to find my voice as a comedian. So in a way it interrupted something very pure. But when I added roasting into my act, it was like when the Eagles added Joe Walsh to the band. It gave it some balls. It gave it a kick.
As far as how its changed, it’s more out of necessity then by design. In the beginning at those early roasts, I didn't have any friends in Hollywood. I wasn't in charge. I didn't give a flying f**k. I would take people's heads off. I just wanted to make a splash and be remembered. Now that Im producing these shows, I want everybody to look good and everyone to score. Early on when I started producing I recognized that being the funny guy on an unfunny show was not going to make a career. I had to be the funniest guy on a funny show to make a career out of it.
CM: Dave ,you’ve played nearly every city in America, is Houston a fond place for you?
DA: Yeah man, that old club that's not there any more, the Laffstop, was a magical place, and Mark Babbitt the guy who ran it, was amazing. But let me also give a shoutout to a wonderful Houston guy, Sean Rouse who passed away a few years ago. He was my opener for years and years, he really was one of the best Houston comics I’ve ever seen, and unfortunately, he was unknown to most people outside of the comedy world. He toured with Doug Stanhope as well, and we both said there was nobody smarter, darker, and sweeter than him. And I miss him every day.
CM: What is your favorite part of your career right now?
DA: I really do enjoy my audience, like the crowds on the road. A lot of them are super fans and come see you every year, and then you meet their friends and spouses or whatever when they bring them in. It’s kinda like the world’s smallest Phish tour you know?
JR: You know, I love being a comedian. I love writing, I love acting, I love producing. But when I'm up there bumping it out [The two bump microphones whenever one of them lands a joke the other enjoys] with Attell, that's the high, that's the heart of the artichoke right there. Being up there with Dave, making Dave laugh and getting the bumps — getting the props from him — that's my favorite thing. That's the grand prize right there.
Jeff Ross and Dave Attell bump mics at 8 pm Saturday, January 18, at Revention Music Center; 520 Texas Ave. Tickets start at $35.