It’s odd that I don’t go to more comedy shows. Comedy in all forms — sketches, stand-up, parody — is actually one of my favorite things. I spend hours watching clips online of all of the above, I’ve been known to rent/own the occasional stand-up DVD, but I think in my entire life I’ve seen less than a dozen live comedy shows. And most of those, let’s be honest, have been media comps over the last five or six years.
Such was last night’s visit to Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the Tropicana, a space with which I’m pretty familiar, because for years before the gargantuan funnyman’s name adorned its marquee, it was known as the Comedy Stop (which recently moved south on the Strip to the Sahara). The revamped club opened just this week, with Garrett as the first headliner. Not much has been done to the space, which retains its old-school Vegas adornments — dark wood, sight line-blocking pillars, giant, ornate chandeliers — though rumor has it Garrett had the ceiling above the stage raised to accommodate his 6-foot-8-inch frame. Though he’ll obviously not be in the club all the time, it’s the only place in Vegas to see the Emmy-winning comedian for the next two years.
Last night’s show was pretty good, the room packed with a mix of paid attendees and invited guests, including poker star Annie Duke, a friend of the poker-loving Garrett. But she was about the only person immune to Garrett’s roasting of the crowd, from the unfortunate folks seated front row to the ubiquitous Robin Leach, who, unbeknown to Garrett, threw quite the temper tantrum when his party arrived late to the club to find their seats unavailable. To be fair, we arrived a few minutes before showtime and already there were almost no seats left, but we didn’t have an entourage of questionably sourced young blonde vixens, nor a grating English accent with which to berate the Tropicana’s president.
But despite that nonsense, a good time was had by all, as evidenced by the nonstop, riotous laughter throughout the room. Garrett, humorously mean the whole while, took out the time to answer audience questions after his set, encouraging an interactivity that really made the whole night feel more like a big roast for good friends rather than just a trip to the local comedy club.
One major complaint — and this may be sorted out after the Tropicana’s extensive transformation into a South Beach-style resort is complete — is that Garrett’s club is damn hard to find, hidden behind a labyrinthine series of executive offices, salons and hallways on the casino’s upper level. Signage is iffy and vague, and even though I’ve been to the club a few times before, it was still disorienting to say the least. But maybe that’s part of the charm, the last vestige of that Vegas “insider” feeling guests boasted back in the “old days.” Or maybe Garrett and his rotating lineup of wise guys just want to make the yucks at the end of the journey worth all that much more.