Rock stars can manipulate a crowd any number of ways, but the easiest is to announce their location. Just shouting “Hello L.A.!” at the Wiltern in Hollywood is a surefire way to drive listeners into a frenzy. This is the common thread in the various performances in Dave Attell’s Insomniac Tour Presents: Sean Rouse, Greg Giraldo and Dane Cook, a slickly shot comedy concert filmed at the Las Vegas House of Blues, the last stop on their tour. The drunk, attractive audience members hoot and holler the whole way through, and by the time show-closer Cook comes on, all he has to do is mention a few street names for them to lose it completely.
The Insomniac special takes its name from Attell’s Comedy Central show, which aired from 2001 to 2004, ending at his insistence, after his popularity had compromised the premise, that he roamed the city streets all night, blending in with large and often bizarre crowds. But this is a standard comedy concert, intercut with brief scenes of Attell and company eating at casino cafeterias or shooting craps, without the show’s man-on-the-street interviews, not to mention the jokes at drunks’ expense and stories of people who work the night shift.
The special features are also uneven. A “Backstage” segment is a cursory look at preparations, but the “Night Out in Vegas” section recalls the raunchy tone and alcoholic demeanor of Attell’s show, complete with nudity, though for some reason the profanities in the bonuses are bleeped out. An “After Party” piece is brief and bland, as is “Behind the Scenes,” both showing the performers as they wander around in the green room.
The concert begins with a brief introductory bit from Attell, who emcees the evening. Rouse’s jokes hit on themes the others will echo: drinking is fun; crystal meth is fun to joke about; masturbation is always on a man’s mind; the existence of God is doubtful; and every person in the audience will likely go to hell, at which suggestion, most of the listeners hoist high their plastic beer cups and cheer. It sets a tone that plays well with the inebriated audience but leaves the viewer a little alienated. Telling jokes about drinking to a room full of drunk people is like shooting fish in a barrel. But sitting at home, stone sober, I got a little bored.
Thankfully, Giraldo’s set is more polished. His wry wit is often based in self-deprecation, and he usually grins as he reaches his punch lines, like he’s having fun. Older than Cook and Rouse, he says his nonstop partying has given way to sobriety and child-rearing. “I don’t know how the hell I got so old,” he laments, describing what it’s like to trip in public and have people think you might have seriously hurt yourself. Giraldo’s tales of aging combine with his views on George W. Bush to give his set the broad appeal Attell and the others shoot for and miss. Sure, his material includes plenty of sexual references, but Giraldo’s inclusion of gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana prove he’s not a one-trick pony.
The rest of the group, though, remains silent on political matters, except for the end of the show. Assembled for a curtain call to toast the evening, Attell says, “I think we should send the first one out to our troops.” I’m sure his sentiment is real, but the toast seems an odd one to make. I wondered why, if Attell thinks the war is important enough to mention at the night’s one semi-serious moment, he didn’t work it into his material.
The youngest of the bunch, Cook performs a set that borders on silliness, mixing observational humor with an absurd honesty. His bit about going through the “stages” of passing out drunk at a party is hilarious, culminating in a simulation of puking and pretending you’re a vomit-breathing dragon. His set features insubstantial tales of getting oral sex and easy references to nearby Las Vegas Boulevard, which sends the crowd into a frenzy, but he’s entertaining. While Cook lacks the confidence that comes with age, he’s also endearing. It’s like seeing a band perform poorly in concert but make up for their lack of skills with raw energy.
That energy is well represented here. Shot on film and presented in widescreen, the DVD looks and sounds better than most Comedy Central standup releases, a sign of just how much cash the company is willing to invest in anything related to Cook, who’s poised to be a star. Attell and Giraldo are recognizable to regular Comedy Central viewers, but they can’t compare to the fact that Cook has more than one million friends on MySpace. One million. Now that sounds like a rock star.