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August 23, 2014

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Jason Alexander sweeps George Costanza under the rug with new show at Hair-rahs

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Bryan Steffy

Jason Alexander makes a surprise appearance at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in MGM Grand on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

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Jason Alexander.

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Jason Alexander makes a surprise appearance at Brad Garrett's Comedy Club in MGM Grand on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Jason Alexander makes a surprise appearance at Brad Garrett's Comedy Club in MGM Grand on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Jason Alexander makes a surprise appearance at Brad Garrett's Comedy Club in MGM Grand on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Jason Alexander knows Las Vegas well enough to understand the concept of hedging your bets.

As proof, Alexander is betting both sides with this new hairpiece he’s been sporting over the past couple of years.

When he needs to look like someone other than George Costanza (which is almost every waking moment these days), Alexander affixes the rug to his head.

But on the off chance he needs to resurrect George, such as for a commercial with Jerry Seinfeld during halftime of this year’s Super Bowl telecast, Alexander pulls the piece clean to reveal his famously slick and hairless pate.

Alexander often refers to the toupee as “revenge hair.”

“There are comedy reasons for the hair, the question if you want to be like George or don’t want to be like George, and how to dispel the preconception in people’s minds that I am actually George Costanza,” Alexander said today during a phone interview. “But there are real, serious reasons behind why I am wearing it.

“I have actually lost a couple of roles — film roles — because a director or producer thought I looked too much like George Costanza, and I could not get out of that box. This is my way of shoving that attitude up their (butts).”

Even so, there are moments when his cranial dexterity can work to Alexander’s advantage.

“Yeah, like when the Super Bowl comes calling,” he says, laughing. “Lemme tell ya, it’s a lot better to have hair you can take off and be George once in a while then having plugs put in and shaving them off. So I’m wearing it and watching everyone react to it, and it’s really interesting to see what happens when you change something about yourself so dramatically.”

There is a point to all of this hairy back-and-forth, centered on Alexander’s new show at Harrah’s, titled “An Evening With Jason Alexander and His Hair.” The monthlong run at Harrah’s Showroom begins April 11. He hopes to generate enough business to grow the production to an extended residency at Harrah's, or elsewhere.

Performances are set for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 9 p.m., with the show working around the schedule of “Million Dollar Quartet” in the same room. (Tickets for Alexander’s performances are $39.99, $59.99 and $79.99 and go on sale Friday at any Caesars Entertainment box office, by phone at 702-777-2782 or on the Harrah’s website).

The standup-based show is new to Vegas, but not new to Alexander, who first performed standup about eight years ago during a visit to the University of Melbourne in Australia. A coveted acting coach, Alexander was asked to conduct seminars at the university as long as he also could perform about 20 minutes of standup as part of a comedy lineup put together for a student audience.

“I told them, ‘I’m an actor. I’m not a standup comedian,’ ” Alexander said. “They said, ‘If you can do 20 minutes, we’ll pay for your entire trip.’

“So I said, ‘I will have 20 minutes for you!’ ”

Alexander has since ebbed toward a full hour’s worth of solid material, at first performing 10- and 15-minute segments to warm up audiences during corporate gigs. Though he did perform about 15 minutes of material in the summer of 2012 at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand, Alexander is notoriously fearful of performing comedy clubs.

“There is the comparison I don’t want with one of my allies, a person I’m connected with who happens to be one of the greatest standup comics ever,” Alexander says, referring to Seinfeld. “And, I’m well aware of another one of my allies who just lost it in a club years ago (a reference to Michael Richards’ infamous outburst at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood in 2007). It’s a combative atmosphere, where you are facing a crowd that is waaaay past the two-drink minimum.”

Thus, Alexander is not offering a comedy-club experience, favoring a one-man variety show that is rooted in comedy. Alexander says he approaches the show as playing the role of a standup comic, incorporating an LED screen at the back of the stage (which he will operate himself with the use of a handheld remote and iPad), some song-and-dance numbers backed by an onstage pianist and a lot of improv convo with the audience.

“I’m a singer and performer in a hybrid show that’s standup, music and audience participation,” he says. “I’m finally doing something worthy of bringing to Harrah’s and saying, ‘Give this a try.’ ”

Alexander has developed the show over time and plays venues a little more refined than a typical comedy club. Performing arts centers in such cities as Sacramento, Calif., St. Paul, Minn.; and Scottsdale, Ariz., have been stops on the national and international tour of the show.

He became interested in Harrah’s and Caesars Entertainment when his booking agent, Greg Janese of Paradigm talent agency (which also reps Bill Engvall and Roseanne Barr, among a high number of well-known comic actors), hooked him up with Las Vegas talent booker and manager Seth Yudof, founder of UD Factory, which is co-producing the show in a partnership with Caesars Entertainment.

Yudof is well-connected with entertainment officials across the city and helped lead Alexander to a venue suitable for a four-week run.

The performance is the second serious effort by Alexander to gain a solid grip on a residency on the Strip. In the fall of 2010, he performed “The Donny Clay Experience” at Planet Hollywood. Alexander’s portrayal of a muddled, addled motivational speaker and life coach was inspired, funny, unique … and confusing.

“I had a good time doing it, but it was hard to tell the story on a billboard of what that evening was going to be about,” Alexander said. “I had people tell me they were not even sure if I was just the producer or was going to actually be in the show.”

There’s no question about Alexander’s next starring role on the Strip. He’ll be easy to find — underneath all that hair.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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