Crapshoot Festival nearly booked Smith Center along with Downtown

Updated May 16, 2017 - 6:04 pm

The Crapshoot Comedy Festival has drawn immediate and understandable comparisons to the long-latent Comedy Festival held at Caesars Palace from 2005-2009.

Similar to the Caesars event, Crapshoot is loaded with comedic practitioners performing over a period of days in Las Vegas.

The comparison ends there.

Crapshoot, set for Thursday through Saturday, is descending on downtown rather than the Strip, including a few venues that have never staged comedy. The big newcomer to the field is the 450-seat Zappos Chambers, formerly the chambers of City Hall, where the festival’s leading headliner, Dave Attell, is performing at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Other Crapshoot venues are Commonwealth’s rooftop deck, Fiesta Room at El Cortez, Beauty Bar’s back courtyard, Fremont Country Club, Inspire Theater and even the Ne10 building across from Zappos on Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue.

Crapshoot is set up as a long run at the table. Festival headliners who have achieved a measure of stature on the club circuit or on national TV include Jesus Trej, Beth Stelling, Morgan Murphy, Aparna Nancherla, Bryon Bowers, Kurt Braunohler, Fahim Anwar and Josh Adam Meyers. Along with Bert Kreishcer’s “Bertcast,” top podcasts hosted Adam Ray and Brad Williams, and also Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, are streaming from downtown.

What is not on the table, at least in Crapshoot’s inaugural year, is any performance at the Smith Center. Paul Chamberlian, who co-founded the event with his wife, Kacky, tried to assemble a deal this year. He had been in talks with Smith Center Chief Operating Officer Paul Beard about staging a show at Reynolds Hall, pursuing a top headline in Attell’s range to headline the 2,050-seat theater.

Reynolds Hall is not totally devoid of laughter. The theater has staged Broadway musicals with comedic themes, including “Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots.” It has also featured such humorists as David Sedaris and Garrison Keillor. But there has been a dearth of top-level comedians at the city’s performing-arts center. In reference to staging comedy, Smith Center President Myron Martin says, “We would like to do more.”

So would Chamberlain.

“We would like make that possible next year, wand we’ve definitely on the same page with the Smith Center people with our vision for how to use both Reynolds Hall and Cabaret Jazz,” Chamberlain says. “I like both rooms. Cabaret Jazz would be great as a podcast venue. I could see that happening there.

Wary of financial overreach, Chamberlain instead dialed back and concentrated the festival on a primarily Fremont East (aside from the Zappos performances) lineup. But if Crapshoot is back for an encore, expect the Smith Center to tap into the funny.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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