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Dave and his cameraman Brian would visit places one would normally expect to be open at night, like bars, and unusual places, like local businesses and weird clubs, in the course of a single night. Along the way Dave would talk to colorful strangers on the street and drink at a lot of bars. Each episode would start at a stand-up club Dave was performing in at the beginning of the evening and end with Dave's "One last thing I gotta do", usually something really silly, right before the sun came up.
Insomniac started in cities in the contiguous United States, but moved to all of North America, and eventually went international. The show had four seasons, ten episodes each, and four specials. The last episode of each season would take place in New York City.
Eventually they had to stop making the show because too many people on the street recognized Dave Attell and figured out what he was doing, ruining the "average guy on the street" feel of the show. That, and they ran out of cities to visit.
Insomniac with Dave Attell provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Dave would drink a lot in one night, especially Jagermeister.
- Always Night: Because each episode was filmed over the course of a single night.
- Drink Order: Beer and shots of Jager.
- The Insomniac: Dave claimed to be this, which was how he was able to stay up all night.
- Once a Season: The season finale would always be in New York City, and end with Dave going back to his apartment and telling Brian to get out.
- Platonic Prostitution: Dave did hire escort girls a couple of times, but only to go bowling or eat ribs with them.
- Silent Partner: Brian the cameraman. Dave would talk to him, and sometimes Brian would shake the camera, but since he was the only cameraman following Dave around the audience never saw him, and he never spoke.
- Something Completely Different: One time Dave went to Anchorage, Alaska during the Summer Solstice, where the sun was out all night.