The Wright brothers dreamed of flying.
Edmund Hillary longed to summit Everest.
Las Vegas comedians Brian Mollica and Tyler Jolley have their own seemingly impossible mission: trying to wring more laughs out of “Showgirls” than writer Joe Eszterhas and director Paul Verhoeven did, unintentionally, back in 1995.
The cult classic tale of Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) — the switchblade-toting, stripper pole-licking drifter and her rise from dancing at Cheetah’s to headlining “Goddess,” the volcano-centric topless production at the Stardust — is the first offering in the monthly “Sinnerama” series at Brenden Theatres at the Palms.
The brainchild of Brenden general manager Jay Jay Coulter and Silent Savasana co-founder Kyle Markman, “Sinnerama” combines local comedians, awful movies and wireless headphones. Think “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” minus the spaceship and the robots, but with the sweet relief of alcohol. (Tickets for the 8 p.m. Saturday show are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and include a drink. Attendees must be at least 21.)
“We did a practice run a couple of weeks ago,” Markman says, “and I was crying, full-on tears.”
Those were tears of laughter. Any shed by Mollica and Jolley, though, probably were the result of the numerous times they’ve had to watch “Showgirls” for research. “It’s starting to wear on me,” Mollica admits. “Like, from a sanity standpoint, it’s really starting to be a grind.”
A unique night out
It was important for Coulter and Markman that “Sinnerama’s” first film be set in Las Vegas, and “Showgirls” certainly has more cultural cachet than, say, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.” The movie, in which Berkley writhes around like that time her “Saved by the Bell” character got hopped up on “caffeine pills,” had quite the impact on the comedians.
“I had two older brothers that were, like, ‘You have to see this movie,’ ” says Jolley, who grew up in Pahrump. They ensured he did by somehow getting him into a screening of one of the only mainstream releases to earn an NC-17 rating. Jolley was 11.
Mollica had just turned 17 in the fall of 1995 and saw “Showgirls” in his hometown of Tucson with a group of 17-year-old friends. “Of course, in our minds,” he recalls, “this was going to be a huge pivotal moment in our young lives.”
Neither had watched it since, until they landed the “Sinnerama” gig and started writing jokes about it. “Seeing it as an adult … it is really a terrible movie,” Mollica says. “When you watch it as an adult, you don’t even know who that movie is supposed to be for, other than 17-year-olds in the ’90s.”
That and anyone searching for a unique night out in Las Vegas.
‘The movie is so bad’
Coulter is always on the lookout for new programming ideas and, she says, ways to make seeing a movie at Brenden “an experience to be remembered.” With “Sinnerama,” that means donning wireless headphones, which Markman uses with his Silent Savasana yoga classes, that will pump the jokes straight to audience members. The headphones allow attendees to control the volume, and they can be worn DJ-style — one on, one off — so friends can talk to each other without disrupting others. If you’ve ever been to a screening of Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” that’s a very big deal.
When it comes to those jokes, Mollica says, goofing on “Showgirls” is more difficult than it sounds. “Anyone can watch this movie and make fun of it and laugh. Literally anybody can. But the idea of bringing Tyler and I on is, let’s talk about more than just how bad the acting is.” The challenge is, “Can you get in there and find the laughs that maybe someone watching at home wouldn’t have come up with on their own?” he explains.
Some laughs, though, are inherent. “The movie is so bad on its own, you also want to know where to hang back and just let the movie bury itself,” Mollica says.
‘Something Vegas comedy needs’
The “Sinnerama” founders set out to create a new experience for local moviegoers. Perhaps inadvertently, they’ve also launched a platform for local comedians, who can find themselves shut out of the clubs that cater to tourists. “I think it’s something Vegas comedy needs,” Jolley says. “We don’t have anything really like this.”
Markman insists the first “Sinnerama” screening isn’t just for “Showgirls” die-hards. He’d never seen the entire movie before the test show. “By the end of it, especially with their jokes, you’ve kind of been sucked into the movie more than you thought,” he says. “And you’re like, ‘Oh, boy, how is this going to end? And how are these guys going to talk about that?’ ”
The second question will be answered Saturday.
As for the first — spoiler alert! — it’s horribly. Like the two hours that precede it, it’s legendarily, mystifyingly, brain-shruggingly dreadful.
Mollica and Jolley definitely have their work cut out for them.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at email@example.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.