Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 | 2 a.m.
As Piff the Magic Dragon said this week on the Sun on the Strip pod, we all need to laugh right now. The Strip spot with the most jokes per night at the moment is the STRAT, where the L.A. Comedy Club was among the first venues to reopen on October 9.
“We thought, let’s just put on as many shows as we can and find out where the audience gravitates, adjust and go forward,” said producer Joaquin Trujillo. “We sort of did so against the advice of some smarter people, because they were asking, how at 50% would we be able to make money. But it’s not about making money for us right now, it’s just about getting the blood pumping. Not to be cliché, but laughter really is the best medicine right now.”
L.A. Comedy Club got its start in Las Vegas in 2007 at Palace Station and has been a fixture at the STRAT for five years. Located in the 160-seat Dragon Room on the second-floor retail level, the show goes on three times a night starting with “Redneck Comedy Magic with James Michael” at 6 p.m., a rotating headliner at 8 p.m., and resident Butch Bradley at 10 p.m. All performances meet the state’s social distancing and safety guidelines, of course, with an audience cap of 55.
STRAT General Manager Stephen Thayer said it was important to get the comedy up and running as soon as possible, aligning with the north Strip resort’s general approach to pandemic-era operations; it’s all about bringing the Vegas back.
“The word is experience,” Thayer said. “That’s what we’ve been focused on since reopening. There are so many things we have to do to make sure our employees and guests are safe and anything we can do to bring that experience back is critical to the idea of people wanting to get back to Las Vegas. They want to experience what they remember.”
The STRAT also recently reinstalled live music at the renovated Remix Lounge, but Thayer said it’s more of an ambient option. Upstairs, the comedy club’s stars are working through the circumstances and adjusting as needed.
“We sat down the first batch of comics to make sure everyone was aware of the environment. Everybody comes here because our comics are cutting-edge. They’re all on the way up, rising stars,” Trujillo said. “We’re really big on original material onstage, so we made it clear that while there’s a lot of material out there, if you have a new [pandemic] joke, think twice and come at it from a unique point of view. If it’s funny, by all means, do it. We never clip people’s wings. But we want them to be aware that somebody might have seen it online and it might not feel fresh or authentic. They’ve juggled all of it really well.”
In other funny business: Those private stand-up shows from comedian Sebastian Maniscalco at Wynn continued last week. He performed at the resort’s new outdoor Event Pavilion on October 9 and 10 and then took the show to the XS Nightclub on the 16th and 17th. The invite-only events were limited to VIP casino customers and while there are no current plans for more private or new public ticketed entertainment at Wynn, it’s clear the resort is experimenting with the potential of its varied venues.
And at Tropicana, which reopened September 17, the legendary comedy club Laugh Factory is coming back to life on November 5. Stand-up stalwart Bob Zany is headlining November 5-8 with support from Brian McKim and Traci Skene. This will be the first entertainment option to return to the Trop with no sign yet of its “Legends in Concert” or “Purple Reign” shows.
Tape Face is the latest Las Vegas Strip performer to announcement his return to the stage. The hard-to-define, easy-to-enjoy show will reopen at Harrah’s on November 11 as a completely redesigned show that not only complies with COVID-19 regulations but also allows Tape Face himself (aka Sam Wills) to connect with the audience in a new way via “up close and personal” conversation at the top of each show. The schedule is set for 7:30 p.m. performances Wednesday through Sunday at Harrah’s Showroom, moving from the smaller House of Tape venue. Tickets are on sale October 30 at harrahsshows.com.
Keith Thompson’s Composer’s Showcase is teaming with grassroots organization WE/EC (We the Entertainment Community of Las Vegas) to present “On With the Show,” a four-night free livestreaming telethon starting Friday at 6 p.m. designed to raise money for the TCS Entertainment Community Relief Fund. Earlier in the COVID shutdown, Thompson organized a music video for the original tune “Needing Each Other” to raise awareness and funds for the local performing arts community. Now he and his team have lined up performances from Dennis Blair, Travis Cloer, Vita Corimbi Drew, Daniel Emmet, Joel Ferguson, Uli Geissendoerfer, Jamie Hosmer, Chadwick Johnson, The Lique, Sarah Hester Ross, Janien Valentine and many more, another incredible example of local performers supporting each other. Tune in each night on YouTube or Twitch and find more info at thecomposersshowcase.com.
Another huge fundraiser is coming up on November 8. It’s called Jammin’ 4 Hope and it’s being organized by SPI Entertainment and HopeLink of Southern Nevada, a local nonprofit that’s been fighting homelessness and taking care of Las Vegas families since 1991. It will take place at downtown’s Backstage Bar & Billiards with livestreaming on Facebook and YouTube and performances and appearances are scheduled from Wayne Newton, Mike Tyson, Matt Goss, Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men, Louie Anderson, Human Nature, Frank Marino, Piff the Magic Dragon, performers from “Thunder From Down Under,” “Fantasy,” “The Rat Pack is Back” and many more. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for more info.
Speaking of Human Nature, the Aussie singing group announced in June it would not return to its residency show at Venetian. Several other acts have since that joined the category of shows that will be looking for new homes when the time is right. Terry Fator is a member of that club, having departed from the Mirage, and Matt Goss is reportedly mulling his options after his Mirage venue, the 1 OAK nightclub, closed for good during the shutdown. It’s also looking like “Raiding the Rock Vault” won’t return to the Rio and “Cherry Boom Boom” is similarly finished at OYO, and magician Hans Klok has officially vacated his post as the third show at Excalibur’s Thunderland Showroom. Klok will be hunting for a bigger Vegas room for his big-time illusions once live entertainment conditions level out.
Friday’s Discovery Children’s Museum virtual gala “The Magic of Discovery” honors Amy and Marc Badain and the Las Vegas Raiders with a star-studded show broadcast live from the museum in Symphony Park, with Clint Holmes hosting and performances from Jewel, Matt Goss, Mat Franco, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys, Maxine Jones of En Vogue and Property Brother Drew Scott. The show is streaming for free at discoverykidslv.org at 7 p.m. and you can bid on items in the virtual auction with proceeds benefitting the essential educational programs at Discovery.
Several Vegas-based artists will be participating in this week’s virtual theatrical event “With Love, Now and Forever: Cats 4 Covid Relief,” a reunion of cast members from the national tour of “Cats” and fundraiser for the Broadway Cares COVID-19 Emergency Relief Assistance Fund, which supports the Actors Fund. The event premieres at 5 p.m. Friday at broadwaycares.org/catsbenefit and among the local cast and crew members are Randy Slovacek, Jay Alger and Jack Gaughan.