Nick Swardson will work with you when he’s onstage, but he probably won’t drink with you offstage.
The comedian says he woke up under the Hard Rock Hotel sign one time too many.
“One of the last spasms” of hard partying in Las Vegas started in a nightclub. The Mirage, he thinks. (Good chance of that, as he made his headliner debut last year in the same Terry Fator Theatre where he returns Friday.)
“We were drinking out of a bottle, going crazy, and I just blacked out. … And I woke up and I called my buddy: ‘Hey man, you gotta pick me up, you gotta get in a cab. I’m at the Hard Rock.’
“He said, ‘Where are you at the Hard Rock? The casino, or which club?’
“I said, ‘No man, I’m under the guitar out in front of the Hard Rock. Literally, I’m right under the guitar.’ ”
There was another Vegas blackout several years ago, as related on fellow comedian Norm Macdonald’s podcast. Swardson woke up to find himself in a room busy with sex acts, his eyes coming into focus on one of the little people who performed in the “Beacher’s Madhouse” show then at the Hard Rock.
But now? “In Vegas, we’ll see what happens,” he says. “I always say I’m gonna be mellow, but you never know what happens in Vegas.
“Vegas does a good job of taking care of any celebrities. For the most part if you’re cool and not (a jerk), they’ll have your back. I’ve gotten obliterated at clubs and they’ve made sure I’ve gotten back to my room, stuff like that.”
Elsewhere, at least, the 37-year-old says his life has become more detached from his material.
“People think I’m this crazy party tornado when I go out on the road. But I’m actually the exact opposite,” he says. “If I’m on tour I just go right back to my hotel room. Really boring.”
For some reason, fans find this hard to believe. They come up to his table in restaurants and try to coax him into doing Jager Bombs. “Just do one!” they plead, not understanding that the next person — and the next — will say the same thing.
“Once you start that train, it derails frequently,” he says.
Onstage, however, Swardson is more accommodating. “My shows are pretty casual. They’re really loose and I talk to the crowd. I don’t just go out onstage and press play. … I don’t have some persona I go into.”
If someone yells out for the Gay Robot character, or for one of the lines from his movie comedies with Adam Sandler, “I’ll just say the line that people want to hear. … I didn’t have that problem like (Dave) Chappelle had where he’d get really upset if people yell stuff out.”
Swardson can handle a crowd because he’s been a stand-up headliner since he was 22. But that’s been just one part of a career that included the long-running “Reno 911!” and two seasons of the sketch comedy show “Pretend Time” on Comedy Central.
“I’ve done a good job of balancing it all out. I like to have my hand in everything,” he says.
Currently, he is developing a half-hour scripted series — FX has first refusal — and four movies. Plus, he’s planning a full tour next fall, which likely will culminate in a stand-up TV special.
“I’m always juggling as many things as I can,” he says. Some stand-up comedians “aren’t really good actors. Not that I’m an amazing actor but I can hold my own. I’ve also been able to write, which is really lucky I’m able to do that. Both my parents were writers and I was always a writer growing up. I’m lucky to have that skill.”
Even though Swardson did two years of TV sketch comedy and ended up in movie ensemble comedies such as “Grown Ups 2,” he says he chose stand-up early on so he wouldn’t have to be a team player.
“I started in improv and then, I don’t know, I just wanted to do stand-up,” he says. “My improv group, I didn’t like some of the people or think they were that funny. I’d rather be onstage myself, and then if I tank, then it’s my fault.”
The sketch show “Pretend Time” turned out to be “extremely difficult, much more than I thought it was going to be,” he says. “It’s so many different characters every week, so many different locations. It was so intense, I’ve never done anything like that. And they wanted the sketches to be short, where on the Chappelle show they would have eight- or nine-minute sketches.”
But he still gets shout-outs for his years as the roller-skating Terry on “Reno 911!” “That show is really worshipped,” he says, even if he never visited Reno while filming it. “My condolences to Reno that we never touched foot on your soil and we represented you for seven years.”
But it sounds like his Southern Nevada experiences are quite enough for one Silver State.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.