Deja vu? Up to a point.
Al Madrigal was an opening act for Dave Chappelle at The Comedy Festival at Caesars Palace in 2005.
On Saturday, he’s again one of the opening acts for Chappelle in what amounts to a traveling comedy fest, the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival at Mandalay Bay.
But things change in eight years.
Madrigal is much better known now, thanks to “The Daily Show” and his work as an actor.
And Chappelle hasn’t performed in Las Vegas — or a lot of other places — since he took a self-imposed break from show business after that short-lived 2005 fest.
But now this megabill co-headlined by Chappelle and comedy duo Flight of the Conchords lands on the very same only-in-Vegas weekend as the iHeartRadio gathering across the street at the MGM Grand. So maybe it’s that, or bad publicity for one of the tour stops, that’s kept this gathering of headliners relatively under the radar.
Granted, it comes with one of those “lineup can change” disclaimers. But the Vegas show promises “roast master” Jeff Ross as host, Jim Jefferies, Australian star of the FX comedy “Legit,” and ubiquitous Kristen Schaal, who was on the Conchords’ HBO series and works with Madrigal on “The Daily Show.”
Hannibal Buress, Chris D’Elia and Brody Stevens also are known by face to comedy and TV fans, if less by name.
“I don’t know how they can replicate this,” Madrigal says. “Because this is such a special thing in front of such a large group of people, everyone’s watching each other’s sets. It’s been really fun.
“To have Flight of the Conchords congratulate me after walking offstage has been one of the coolest things ever.”
Plus, he says, as the tour winds down, fans are “getting the most polished version of the act.
“When I went out initially in Austin, Texas, I didn’t know what I was going to do. Now it’s a well-oiled machine.”
The only breakdown was in Hartford, Conn., in late August, when Chappelle was interrupted by the crowd to the point that he quit performing, but lingered onstage for his contractually required 25 minutes.
He told another tour stop in Chicago the Hartford crowd was made up of “young, white alcoholics” and said he wanted to pull “a reverse Kramer,” referring to Michael Richards’ infamous 2006 meltdown.
But Madrigal says that’s where meltdown comparisons end.
“The Hartford thing was an isolated incident and it was really just a Hartford problem. For people to say ‘meltdown’ is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not a meltdown, he made a choice.
“Chappelle’s a great storyteller and he does longer jokes and that’s what’s so special about him,” Madrigal adds. “You try to tell a story when you have a hundred people yelling at you. It’s impossible.
“He had a hundred people easy screaming ‘I’m Rick James, bitch!’ It becomes unmanageable. You really can’t perform under those circumstances.” Other cities have been “getting great shows,” by “sitting there and paying attention and not shouting out.”
Madrigal carved out time for the tour in a busy, bicoastal commuter’s life between his family in Los Angeles and “The Daily Show” in New York. His wife, Krystyn Lakas, is a Las Vegas native whose parents still live here, so he’s familiar with the city away from the Strip.
Madrigal has high hopes for “About A Boy,” the TV adaptation of the hit movie and Nick Hornby novel that NBC plans to introduce after the Winter Olympics. Madrigal is the rare performer who has always balanced stand-up, sketch comedy and acting since his earliest days.
“I did sketch because I would watch ‘SCTV’ and Dana Carvey and ‘Saturday Night Live’ and think ‘Oh my God I need to do this,’ ” he says. “I also started late, so I think maybe that’s just me lighting a fire under my ass to get going and do as much as I can.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.