The brand showed up in human form Friday night at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club. Kimmel put his own consumer test on the new entertainment venue at Linq Promenade, joined by comic and part-time club consultant Jeff Ross.
Harland Williams headlined the venue’s soft opening, crushing it both nights. “What do you do?” he asked an audience member, who responded, “I’m a stay-at-home mom!” Williams answered, “Well, you’re not very good at it — you’re here!”
Kimmel’s close friend and former broadcast partner Adam Carolla brought his podcast to Thursday’s soft opening, with Williams as the guest. “Everything needs to be perfect in this club,” Carolla said. “If anyone complains, Jimmy will go into a deep depression. Seriously. That’s how much this place means to him.”
Carolla also told the near-capacity audience, “Jimmy is a crazy foodie now, but 25 years ago, picture a broke Jimmy Kimmel. Although poor and fat, rich and skinny, it doesn’t really make sense.”
Ross performed at the close of the early and late shows, appearing onstage with Kimmel. The club operator arrived to a standing ovation and led with, “I am from Las Vegas. I went to Sammy Davis Jr. Junior High.”
Kimmel, who actually attended Kenny Guinn Junior High and Clark High, isn’t a stand-up, but he is funny. “I am from Las Vegas. I love it here. I have many memories here. I lost my virginity about a mile away from here, in the front seat of an Isuzu I-Mark in the parking lot of the Continental hotel …”
When Ross took the stage in a hat that read BITCH, a Grin band T-shirt and loose jeans, Kimmel said, “Are you OK? The pants are falling down. You want to cinch up?”
“I forgot I was going to be onstage!” said Ross, “The Roastmaster General” who was in full late-night Vegas flourish. Ross was getting some stage work before he appears with Dave Attell at “Bumping Mics” at The Mirage later this month.
“I’m high right now. I’m as high as that guy, right there!” he said, pointing to a random audience member near the front of the stage.
The place feels like home to Kimmel. Specifically, it feels like Kimmel’s real home. The venue is double-decked, with a bar and lounge downstairs and the comedy club upstairs. The lounge is open at 11 a.m. daily. The room’s big couches and soft-leather chairs, personal photos and even some puppets from Kimmel’s days on the Comedy Central prank-call series “Crank Yankers” reflect Kimmel’s house decor in L.A.
“I wanted it to be very comfortable, and not your typical kind of Las Vegas bar environment,” Kimmel said in his still-sparsely appointed green room between shows Friday. “They came up with some plans. I didn’t love the plans, and they said, ‘What kind of things do you like? I said, ‘Come to my house in L.A., I have a bar in it, I’ll show you what I like.
“Well, they liked it so much they basically duplicated my current home, a bigger version of it. It’s very odd to walk into a building that isn’t your house, and see your house.”
Kimmel and Ross reviewed the venue’s opening, and one change might be to adjust the look of the stage. The club has a comparatively high ceiling (Laugh Factory at Tropicana, Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club and Comedy Cellar at the Rio are all far lower).
“Jeff was suggesting something that seems important, for whatever reason, to keep focus on the comic …,” Kimmel said. “We might go with a false lower ceiling, but keep the big, open room.”
The 8,000-square-foot venue seats 300, and has the feel of where a comedy club and showroom meet, with cocktail tables near the front, theater seats near the middle of the room, and high-top chairs and tables in the back.
Kimmel has tied to his Vegas upbringing with drink names. Jerry’s Towel, for Jerry Tarkanian’s sideline towel-chewing habit; the Cleto; Guillermo, Uncle Frank and Aunt Chippy from his talk show are all on the menu. The menu offers pizzas, chicken wings and fries served in the lounge and during the show.
Kimmel dismissed the suggestion of some sort of insider discount, for repeat customers or locals, such as the off-the-menu steak special at Lucky’s at Hard Rock Hotel, or the password to get into the Speakeasy at The Mob Museum.
“You mean, some sort of fake exclusivity?” Kimmel said with a laugh. “Some sort of exclusivity that everyone knows about? No, not really. I want everyone to feel they are part of the VIP experience. It feels great to be one of the people coming in through that door, but it feels (lousy) when you’re not. I want everyone to feel welcome, not like the Secret Pizza place that’s not a secret to anyone.”
The club’s design allows for podcast and TV broadcasts.
“We want to to shoot comedy and put it on our show from the club,” Kimmel said. “We’ll have three-quarters from L.A., then cut to Las Vegas.”
Kimmel has not even started to plan for any return of the late-night show to the Strip. The show was staged at Zappos Theater from April 1-5, with ratings spiking on the Friday night when Celine Dion was the lead guest.
“Everyone is still recovering from the bronchitis we caught while we were here,” Kimmel said, laughing. “But to come back depends on money from ABC, if we’ve sold enough sponsorships to cover the costs. I’d love to come back, though.”
Kimmel’s contract with ABC is set to expire at the end of the year. “It’s unresolved, but there is a long time between now and then,” he said.
Kimmel does have a contingency plan, should he not return to the network that has been his home since January 2003. As the Vegas club operator says, “I’m going to make chicken fingers, here, at the comedy club.”
Note: This version of the column corrects Adam Carolla’s quote about Jimmy Kimmel.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.