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Kimmel, Letterman trying to help Vegas comic get her own talk show

Updated June 7, 2024 - 9:13 am

We haven’t flicked on the spotlight at Kats Comedy Hut in quite a while. But if this were an actual club, Luenell would be our resident headliner.

The Sunday- and Monday-night star of Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club is in talks — like, at this moment — with Kimmel about developing her own talk show. And David Letterman is involved.

Kimmel and Luenell chatted about the idea on a Zoom chat Wednesday morning, sharpening the concept.

A lot of moving parts, yes. Here’s how it went down:

Luenell blew up John Mulaney’s “Everybody’s In LA” talk show last month. The show was part of the “Netflix Is a Joke” comedy festival across Los Angeles.

Mulaney’s guests were Letterman, Bill Hader, Pete Davidson and seismologist Lucy Jones. Jones was there to talk about earthquakes. But it was Luenell who shook up the stage, especially when Mulaney asked Jones why she became a seismologist.

“I discovered geology,” the expert on earthquake scenes said. “I read the book on my first week of class …”

Luenell cut in, “And you fell in love with earthquakes?”

The line sent Letterman, Hader and Davidson into a laughing fit. “I can’t, I can’t,” Davidson said while busting up.

After Jones said she actually married a fellow seismologist, “I’m a bit of a size-mologist myself,” Luenell followed.

“It’s different,” Mulaney explained to the earthquake expert, who was doing her best to keep up.

The appearance initiated an ongoing dialogue between Letterman and Luenell about her possibly hosting her own talk show. Letterman actually took a couple of photos of the two sitting side-by-side under a blanket (the studio was notoriously cold during this live broadcast), then sent them to Kimmel. This was during the broadcast.

Letterman, a groundbreaking host for more than 30 years on two networks, is on-board for a Luenell show, with Kimmel in the mix.

“I’m going to do this, and Jimmy gets first dibs, since I’ve been working for him for all these years,” Luenell said in a chat before her meeting with Kimmel. ” He’s a great guy, and I am a resident at his spot. So why not talk to him first, you know?”

After the chat, she said Kimmel is planning a “pitch deck” to send to streaming services, starting with Netflix. She likes the title, “Las Vegas Late Night With Luenell,” because “It has all those Ls.”

Kimmel spoke to all of this while in town on June 2, to throw out the first pitch at the Aviators game at Las Vegas Ballpark.

“Luenell is a super-funny person, and obviously she impressed David Letterman when she was on with John Mulaney,” said Kimmel, who was in town to support ALS of Nevada on Lou Gehrig Day across the country. “She’s interested in doing a talk show, and I’m going to try to help her develop that. She’s really like a reincarnation of Redd Foxx.”

So expect this to be a show for grown-ups, whatever it is. This might be a dating-advice streaming show, or an adult-themed talk show from the club. All sorts of ideas are being tossed around. Letterman, especially, is a consequential figure in this dynamic.

“Luenell is a lovely woman, and she and I have become close over the past couple of weeks. She’s very successful and people love her,” Letterman said on the “Barbara Gaines Show,” a YouTube vehicle hosted by the former “Late Show” producer. “She has a great friendship with Jimmy.”

Letterman said the idea is, “Not regular TV, but on the streaming platforms. We have great hopes for that.” Clearly, the longtime king of late night is not alone.

No ‘Live’ in Vegas

Kimmel, of course, grew up in Las Vegas — his appearance Sunday was to support his godson Joey Porrello, a friend from his Vegas days who is bravely fighting ALS. Porrello’s grandfather is the great trumpet player Tommy Porrello, who played for such legends as Frank Sinatra (and is still sometimes a member of “The Rat Pack is Back” show at Tuscany).

Kimmel’s ties to the city are evident on his show. His bandleader on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” is the great Vegas musician Cleto Escobedo III, whose father, Cleto Escobedo Jr., was also a major music figure in this city.

Drawing from his Vegas underpinnings, Kimmel brought the ABC show to then-Zappos Theater in April 2019. The shows were certainly a critical success, with such Vegas icons as Celine Dion, Carrot Top and The Killers among the guests. Sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez danced with the Chippendales and dressed as a showgirl.

But don’t expect the show to return to Vegas anytime soon. This is an extravagant adventure.

“It is so expensive to travel the show. You’d be shocked at how much it costs,” Kimmel said. “ABC is not interested in spending a few million dollars to make that happen right now.”

Kimmel has two years remaining on a three-year contact with ABC, where he has hosted “Live!” since 2003. Asked if the end of the contract will be the end of him hosting the late-night show, the 56-year-old host said, “I try not to give it any thought because I know whatever I decide might not necessarily be what I decide at the end. I’ve learned my lesson about predicting my own demise.”

Comedy haps at Harrah’s

Carlos Mencia is at the front of the “Stars of Comedy” showcase at Harrah’s Showroom. Ventriloquial performer Paul Zerdin, top stand-up Ryan Hamilton and former “Entourage” co-star Jeremy Piven make up the first roster when the series opens June 3o.

The shows run 7:30 p.m. Sundays and Mondays. The new production is brought to the stage by Damian Costa and Nick Cordaro of Pompey Entertainment. “Stars” moves in for the defunct “Hyprov” hypnosis-improv experiment, which closed in January with zero notice or announcement.

Donny Osmond remains the lord of the manor at Harrah’s. The new show works around his schedule. And in a full-circle moment, Costa worked the deal to bring Osmond to Harrah’s when Costa was an exec with Caesars Entertainment.

What Works In Vegas …

Nate Bargatze is coming back to Encore Theater on Oct. 2, 4-5, six shows total at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. I predict he will wipe out every show after tickets are on sale 10 a.m. Friday (ticketmaster.com). Bargatze was also the funniest host of Season 49 of “SNL.” He was summoned during the writers’ strike — when Hollywood A-listers were off the table — and crushed it.

A previous version of this column misspelled Cleto Escobedo III’s name.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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