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Attell and Ross: 'Real hero' of 'Bumping Mics' is 'the punchline'

By
Ben Hooper
Comedians Jeff Ross (R) and Dave Attell (L) told UPI in a recent interview that their Netflix series, Bumping Mics, has its origins in their real-life friendship. Photo courtesy of Netflix
Comedians Jeff Ross (R) and Dave Attell (L) told UPI in a recent interview that their Netflix series, "Bumping Mics," has its origins in their real-life friendship. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Bumping Mics stars Dave Attell and Jeff Ross said the three-part Netflix special was a "hobby" before it became "a party inside a comedy show inside a documentary."

Attell, who made his name with the Comedy Central travel series Insomniac, and Ross, best known as the "Roastmaster General" from the cable network's series of celebrity roasts, told UPI in an interview that they had no idea when they began touring together that it would lead to the Bumping Mics series, streaming now on Netflix.

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"Before it was a tour, it was a hobby," Ross said. "We used to just go up as a group to get our ya-yas out late at night."

"I would have a spot and I would invite Dave on or, more often than not, Dave would have a late spot ... and next thing we knew we started bumping," he said, referring to the comedians' titular habit of touching their mics together after a particularly good joke.

'Bumping Mics'

The three episodes, filmed on three consecutive nights at the Comedy Cellar in New York, are composed mainly of the two men riffing on stage with each other and guest stars, including Michael Che, Amy Schumer, Nikki Glaser and Paul Rudd.

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The on-stage action occasionally cuts away to short segments of the two men visiting various New York locations, meeting people on the street and discussing their personal history together.

"Just a little taste of our regular lives: Our families ... getting a haircut, it's very revealing and not overdone," Ross said. "I think it's cool because it's a nice transition on and off stage. It kinda shows what we're really like ... we bump mics, and this is what we do when we're not bumping mics, we hang out."

The comedians said it fell on their director, documentary filmmaker Andrew Jarecki (The Jinx), to take the disparate ingredients and turn them into a cohesive show.

"The real hero of the show is basically the punchline," Attell said. "In today's world of storytelling, you don't see that much anymore. Especially in these hour specials, you'll see kind of a long story with a few jokes in it, whereas this is just a ton of jokes with very little story. And that's why Andrew, in his official stuff -- the documentary stuff -- really kind of helps cement it all together."

"It really was booked like a party," Ross said. "We kinda had a rough guest list, but then when we ran into people around the weekend, we would just invite them over and the next thing you know -- Hey, there's Bruce Willis sitting next to my aunt!"

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The spontaneity of the guest list is on full display when the pair, riding in a car with Gilbert Gottfried, has a random on-the-street encounter with comic Joe Machi, who accepts their invitation to appear in the next episode.

He said it was important to the duo that they highlight underexposed comedy scene up-and-comers like Machi, Wil Sylvince and Yamaneika [Saunders].

"We use whoever's around, they're all invited and they're all a part of it," Attell said.

Attell said part of the appeal of gathering such a wide range of comics was being able to live out "bucket list moments" such as bringing Gottfried and Bob Saget on stage together.

"Seeing them together, that's something you don't see every day. And they've known each other for decades," he said.

Origins

Attell said his years of stand-up comedy taught him bringing another comedian on stage can quickly turn a small club like the Comedy Cellar into "a late night chat set."

"It's such a small room that when someone walks into the show you immediately start talking to them, just for the fun of it. So to bring them on stage, that's like a natural next step," he said.

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The comics said it was Ross who pushed for the pair to perform their Bumping Mics show at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, where they caught the attention of Netflix executives.

"It was Netflix's idea to do it as a three-part series," Ross said. He said the idea initially seemed daunting, until it dawned on the pair that they "could invite all our friends ... to come up on stage."

"We're all just having a good time and we're laughing -- and I think that's something that people need to know about comedy, too, is that comics themselves like to laugh," Attell said, "and that we like it darker, deeper and just sicker than you guys will ever know."

The show certainly doesn't shy away from "darker, deeper and just sicker" humor, with one of the documentary-style segments featuring the men talking about audiences that crave "offensive" humor before immediately cutting to an on-stage joke about Anne Frank.

"I gotta give Netflix credit for not filtering us or monitoring our smack talk and letting us sort of go for it," Ross said. "There's not many places left other than maybe comedy clubs and maybe a couple of comedy providers, streamers that let you do this kind of stuff."

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"So, yeah, Anne Frank jokes. It's finally not too soon."

Attell said audiences responded well to the mix of humor in the live shows.

"It goes from silly to sick and back again, and there's smart and there's also dumb jokes in there," he said.

"Dave's jokes are dumb, mine are smart, just for the record," Ross added with a laugh. "He has to dumb his down for me and I have to smarten mine up for him."

On and off-stage friendship

Attell and Ross agreed that part of what makes their on-stage work compelling is the affection and admiration they have for each other.

"Dave's my favorite comic, he's the funniest guy, and it's an honor to be able to do that with him," Ross said.

The future of Bumping Mics largely depends on whether Netflix wants more, the veteran performer said.

"I'm on the road now, and I know Jeff is busy, too. But definitely we should do some more stuff together, whether it's live or taped, we should keep the ball rolling," Attell said.

Ross said regardless of whether there is more Bumping Mics, fans likely won't have to wait very long for similar content.

"It's November, so probably around January or February people will start ripping us off," he quipped. "We did it first. And it's OK! You know, I like being a trendsetter."

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Bumping Mics is available to stream now on Netflix.

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