There is no shortage of new comedy specials these days, and if you’re looking for someone or something to blame, Netflix is your best bet. As much as some might want to complain about being inundated with countless new comedy hours, however, the sheer increase in volume has been great for variety. That is to say, the specials produced and distributed by Netflix are beginning to not look the same. Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette upended the genre over the summer, while Natasha Leggero and Moshe Kasher’s Honeymoon broke it into what looks and feels like a mini-series.
Bumping Mics with Jeff Ross & Dave Attell falls into Leggero and Kasher’s camp, for the special is actually a three-part program that sees the two New York comedy staples roasting each other, other comics in attendance and audience members on three separate nights. As a whole, the show operates as a deft mix of Ross’s prowess as the self-described “Roastmaster General” and Attell’s penchant for commingling with people of all shapes, colors and sizes on his early 2000s Comedy Central program Insomniac. Uproxx spoke to the two men about how Bumping Mics came together.
Bumping Mics was a tour you two did together before it became a Netflix special. Was that the plan all along, or did Netflix enter the picture later?
Dave Attell: Jeff and I had been doing it for a while. I’m sure he probably has better dates and times and whatever, but it just started as a goof. At the end of the shows, I would bring him on and we would just keep going. Then we kept doing it as we toured. Jeff is the real self-starter. He’s the one who was like, “We gotta get this to Montreal.” Meanwhile, I was pretty much like, “I don’t know, man. Let’s just do it for fun.” So we toured it. We did a lot of casinos and theaters, and then he got it in front of the Netflix people in Montreal and they were into it.
Jeff Ross: It was Netflix’s idea. We had done a run of shows in Montreal, which went really well. We had different guests every night, along with different material. The vibe would always be a different sort of energy. Netflix saw it there and thought, “Let’s make this a special that’s more like a series.” So that’s what we did. We left it all on the table and, I think, really delivered something that no one’s seen before. At least, no one watching comedy on Netflix.
It’s definitely not your typical Netflix special. Or comedy special, for that matter.
Ross: It’s kind of fun. It all sort of lays out like a double record. When I was a kid, I’d always buy those double live albums. This one’s a triple. It’s like our greatest hits, in a way. It’s our best jokes mixed in with our best friends. And one of my best friends directed it. It was really a family affair.
Attell: There’s a lot of hour specials out there, but this is kind of an episodic thing. I think that will be better and easier for the viewing public, to be honest. Who wants to sit there for a whole hour? But with this, each show is just a little over 30 minutes, but not by much. They actually had some trouble cutting stuff out. I’m not that way. These guys, the director and Jeff, they were like, “No, let’s put it in.” It was a collaboration, so I was willing to go with that. I’m excited to see what the fans think.
I didn’t realize you and Andrew Jarecki were friends, Jeff. I wanted to ask about him because he’s known for documentaries like The Jinx and not so much for comedy.
Ross: Yup, it was his first time doing comedy. It was pretty fun. He’s a very funny guy and I’ve been telling him to do some comedy for years because he always does these projects with these more serious subjects. But yeah, he really dove in. He knew me and Dave’s acts pretty well, and it wasn’t a hard transition for him at all. It actually put a smile on his face and he later thanked me for it. He seemed really happy about the experience. Instead of doing another one of his deep crime or murder stories, he covered us murdering the audience with our jokes.
It’s always good to lighten things up a bit, murder included.
Ross: It makes a difference.
Having someone from outside the comedy world come in and do this probably helps to change the perspective, too.
Attell: It really does. For example, I hope people don’t get so caught up on the material, because it’s really the flow of the show that gets me. It’s like a hundred punchlines in one go of it. I counted over a hundred punchlines in one episode. You don’t get that nowadays in most specials or television series. Or anything, really. It’s just like rapid fire and with no pause. It’s the segments in between that give the people watching a chance to breathe, I guess.