Jimmy Kimmel has hosted his own network talk show since 2003. He’s hosted the Oscars telecast twice. He’s also twice hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards show.
But for Kimmel, raised in Las Vegas, the brass ring is still out there.
“I have never had my name on a marquee in Las Vegas,” Kimmel says during a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been honored to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but I’m not from Hollywood. This club resonates with me personally.”
This inherently personal project, a partnership with Caesars Entertainment, is the Jimmy Kimmel Comedy Club, set to open next spring in an unused space across from Brooklyn Bowl at Linq Promenade.
Kimmel this morning unspooled plans for an 8,000-square-foot club, two-story venue with a variable capacity up to 300, open seven nights per week. JKCC, in shorthand, will offer an open bar daily, shows every night and food service during shows.
Kimmel will appear occasionally as host when the venue adopts its traditional comedy-club format of multiple standups. He’ll book headliners, too — Kimmel has many comedian friends — and is even toying with the idea of linking the Linq club to his “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” telecasts on ABC.
Kimmel is joining a heavily populated comedy scene in Las Vegas, on and off the Strip. Caesars Entertainment already offers top headliners (Sebastian Maniscalco is at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace this weekend) and a prominent club at the Rio, the Comedy Cellar. Mirage scores each weekend with its headlining Aces of Comedy series, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has booked high-level stars Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler and Amy Schumer.
The city is also home to more than 10 traditional comedy clubs, including Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand and Laugh Factory at Tropicana Las Vegas on the Strip. Carrot Top is the entrenched comic at Luxor. George Wallace headlines at Westgate Cabaret. Eddie Griffin is a regular at The Sayers Club at SLS Las Vegas. Tom Green and John Caparulo swap nights at Harrah’s Showroom.
You get the point. So does Kimmel, who is confident his club will stand apart. He has the advantage of using his talk show to cross-promoting the club, which will serve as the Vegas offshoot of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
“I have this idea that I can do my show and be out at 7:30 p.m. and then fly to Vegas for all of the action at the club and do my monologue there,” Kimmel said. (The venue’s show times and ticket prices have not been announced). “I’m 95 percent sure I can make it there to do that. Also, I want the comics on my show to do their sets from Vegas. We can go live to the club and air the sets from there.”
Kimmel is digging into his list of contacts to perform unbilled sets at JKCC.
“I can say to a Dave Chappelle, ‘Anytime you want to go to Las Vegas and you want to stay at Caesars, you can do the sets you would normally do in L.A. Just let me know,’ ” Kimmel said. “We want to bring in some of those elements — comics showing up for each others’ shows in late-night sets. That’s disappeared from Las Vegas, for some reason.”
The format is to be a combination of headliners and rising comics.
“We’ll mix it up with big names on weekends, and do some other things during the week,” Kimmel said. “We’ll make sure there is room and space for known comics and young comics who are not necessarily selling tickets now but will one day.”
The aesthetics are paramount for Kimmel, who a has toured the facility with his comic buddy Jeff Ross and also conferred with such confidants as Sarah Silverman, Kevin Nealon and Todd Glass.
“It’s funny, you host a talk show and you think you’re a comedian, but you’re not,” Kimmel said. “There is a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and craft that goes into being a comic, and you learn why some clubs are great and some are not.
“I’ve put a lot of thought into how the seats will be arranged, the height of the ceiling, the sound system, the service, the noise people make when eating — all of the food served can be eaten with your hands, no clinking of utensils.”
Kimmel is not allowing cellphones into the club, either. JKCC will be “pouched,” with phones collected at the door and returned when customers leave.
“Cellphones have become an issue in clubs,” Kimmel says. “We’ll check them when you enter. I want this to be an ideal comedy space.”
Kimmel plans a podcast facility and to offer the club as a venue for such projects as Netflix comedy specials.
It’s clear JKCC is to be a long-running comedy venue, complimentary to the entertainment and retail amenities at Linq Promenade. Though Kimmel jokes, “We’re next to the sock store!” he is serious about this venture just across the Strip from what he considers his “home” casino, Caesars Palace.
“My Uncle Frank worked at Caesars, my bandleader, Cleto (Escobedo III) played the Barge at Caesars, and his dad was a butler there for 30 years,” Kimmel says. “The first show I ever saw was Sammy Davis Jr. at Caesars, when I was 13 years old. Vegas is an unusual place to be from.”
A Clark High School graduate who attended UNLV, Kimmel said he wants to return to the more spontaneous entertainment scene he remembers as a kid.
“I really want to bring back the old Las Vegas feel. Everything is so scheduled now,” he said. “I want this club to be loose and fun and all the things Las Vegas should be at late at night.”