Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 | 1:56 p.m.
- Return of Brad Garrett
Brad Garrett often jokes that he’s been vanquished to the basement of the MGM Grand, where he and his favorite stand-ups are forced to toil “next to the pretzel stand.”
“This is what happens when your ex-wife takes all of your ‘Raymond’ money,” he says of his club’s location in the MGM’s newly dubbed Underground promenade, where adjacent to Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club you’ll happen upon a Haagen Dazs ice cream counter, a Harley Davidson memorabilia retailer, Houdini’s Magic Shop, a Star Magnet store, a Mrs. Fields cookies shop, and, yep, a New York Pretzels outlet.
But when shedding his stage act, Garrett says his eponymous club is ideally positioned. In December, he moved out of the club’s first resort location, the Tropicana (where Laugh Factory has since opened its Vegas outpost), and reopened the club in March at the MGM.
Estimates say more than 6,000 hotel visitors a day stride through what was formerly known as Star Lane Shops. Garrett jokes, but that is some serious foot traffic.
“I have nothing but positive things to say about where we are,” Garrett said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “It’s a classic case of ‘location, location, location.’ We have 5,000 rooms above us and we’re bringing in great talent, with two headliners every week, and we’re beating up the other clubs.
“We’re making the turn, coming together, and we’re seeing that the branding is working.”
Garrett is in town this weekend for his annual “All In For Good” poker tournament set for Saturday at the MGM Grand. The event to benefit his Maximum Hope Foundation charity organization. Check-in is 11 a.m., with play starting at noon. Ray Romano leads a list of celebs who have committed to the event, joined by Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and a couple of Garrett’s castmates from his in-production ABC sitcom, “How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life,” set to premiere in January. Those co-stars are John Dore and Stephanie Hunt. Also, Willie Garson (“Sex & The City”) and poker pros Dennis Phillips and Mimi Rogers are entered.
The tournament is open to players age 21 and older. Play is fashioned in a no-limit hold ’em format, with an entry fee of $250. Players are offered a chance to rebuy for $100 in the first two hours of play. An additional add-on is available at the end of the buy-in period. The winner is guaranteed $10,000.
A year ago, Garrett raised more than $150,000 in a single day at the Trop, a figure boosted when the tournament champ, Las Vegas real estate magnate George Chami, donated his winnings back to the foundation. Chami beat out pro Jamie Gold, and the third-place finisher was home run king (and king of the poker face) Jose Canseco.
Garrett founded the organization in 2000, naming it for his kids, Max and Hope. The charity provides resources for essential, practical needs for families with children suffering from life-limiting illnesses. For example, if a family has fallen behind on utility bills, is in need of groceries or needs to replace a burned-out transmission, Garrett’s foundation is there to help. Garrett calculates that 95 percent of the money raised goes directly to those in need. Last year, Maximum Hope provided assistance to more than 40 families.
“We have virtually no overhead,” Garrett says. He heaps praise on Kimberly Evans, his longtime personal assistant, who runs the foundation. Garrett’s girlfriend, IsaBeall Quella, manages the foundation website.
While prepping and planning for the tournament, Garrett is headlining at the club through Saturday night. He says attendance is strong whether he is on the bill or not, but ticket prices are set higher when he appears. When Garrett headlines, prices are $68.40, $79.40 and $90.40. When he’s not onstage, they fall to $46.40, $57.40 and $68.40.
The simple reason is Garrett is worth the upgrade.
“I look at it like this: I’ve done a certain amount of headlining myself over the years. I’ve been in the big room (including a run at the Mirage preceding the opening of the club at the Trop), and I’m hitting a price point that’s in the middle of a club but not the main room,” Garrett says, reminding that the club is a profit-driven venture. “I am one of the few who fall into that category, but what’s really important is the headliners we have coming in are great and have been doing very well.”
Garrett points to such national names as Vegas club frequenter Gilbert Gottfried and Jim Breuer (both former “Saturday Night Live” cast members) as those who have filled the 283-seat venue. Garrett says a Nov. 14-17 appearance of former Howard Stern sidekick Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling is selling particularly well.
Garrett pops into the club, on average, one week a month. He’s been working around the filming schedule for the sitcom, which wraps in mid-November, and says it is important for the Brad Garrett of Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club to actually participate in the venue’s entertainment.
“I love performing, and it’s important that I do it at my own club, absolutely,” he says. “It’s good for me. It’s good for business. This is a tough business, especially in Las Vegas, but I am just going to keep doing it because my heart is in it and it’s what I love to do.”