weather icon Partly Cloudy

Live from New York: Comedy Cellar, Spiegelworld advance on Las Vegas

Updated August 4, 2018 - 6:15 pm

NEW YORK — The Kats! Bureau at this writing is Times Square in Midtown Manhattan. I’m here to catch up on a some entertainment concepts tethered to Las Vegas, and, no, I am not talking about this family act singing “Amazing Grace” next to Mr. Bing Chinese crepes, about 20 feet from me …

Instead, tonight I’m hitting the first showcase of the new disco-themed production “We Are Here,” from “Absinthe” and “Opium” producers Spiegelworld. This show is being planned for a Strip theater/showroom/entertainment club in 2019. Nile Rodgers of Chic (“Le freak, see’est Chic!”) is managing the music. Steven Hoggett of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” on Broadway directs, which is why during this trip I am seeing “Harry Potter” on Broadway.

Also, Friday night, I ducked into Comedy Cellar in Greenwich Village to compare that venue to the club’s new outpost at the Rio.

That was a time. I understand why Caesars Entertainment wanted to partner with this club.

I caught 10 top-level comics over five hours performing in three venues: Comedy Cellar at The Village Underground, The Comedy Cellar around the corner at MacDougal Street, and upstairs at the The Fat Black Pussycat Lounge.

I had no idea of the lineup when I was led to a hightop in the back of my first stop, The Village Underground. As it turned out, that space was the comics’ gathering point. Within minutes I was joined by a rotating group of such headliners as Judah Friedlander, Nikki Glaser (who led off the Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis), Michelle Wolf (best-known for her blistering set at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April and her Netflix show “The Break with Michelle Wolf,” Wolf also is in this year’s Life is Beautiful comedians’ lineup), former “The Daily Show” executive producer and writer Rory Albanese and a guy billed as “Derek Crisp,” who turned out to be Aziz Ansari.

“I have my phone out,” Ansari, a past headliner in Aces of Comedy at The Mirage, started, “because I’m recording some new material. I just want to hear how it sounds. It’s not like I go home and say, ‘Oh, man! This guys is my favorite comic ever!’ ”

(Ansari, incidentally, has made intermittent, unbilled appearances at Comedy Cellar since he was called out in a January story on the website Babe.net, which chronicled an anonymous woman’s date with the comic, whom she accused of being overly aggressive. Ansari denied doing anything wrong, but did say, “Clearly, I misread things in the moment and I’m truly sorry.” He was greeted with loud applause and cheers in the two sets I caught Friday, which were terrifically funny.)

The common thread between Comedy Cellar and “We Are Here” are both are trying to hit the target in Las Vegas with readily recognizable brands. Spiegelworld is seeking to play off the enormous popularity of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace and the peculiar brilliance of “Opium” at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

But “We Are Here” seems nothing like those productions, presented as a 1970s-designed dance show that harkens back to the high times of New York’s Studio 54 (a club that, many years ago, also opened an outpost in Las Vegas, at MGM Grand.

Of course, this is not the first time Spiegelworld has run a show in New York with an eye on Vegas. “Absinthe” premiered in a tent at Pier 17 in downtown Manhattan, just off the East River. That fact that seagulls swooped over ticket-holders waiting at the entrance made Las Vegas seem comparatively inviting. (“Absinthe” was originally planned for the showroom at Fountainebleau, but was snapped up by Caesars Palace after that resort halted construction.)

Spiegelworld also has test-driven the updated, and scaled back, “Vegas Nocturne” in Brooklyn two years ago after the grand-scale production closed at The Cosmopolitan in June 2014. The company pulled the New York version of “Never Sleep Alone,” starring the esteemed Dr. Alex Schiller, from Joe’s Pub to a tryout at the Spiegeltent in February 2016.

Comedy Cellar, too, is drawing from its New York pedigree. After a bumpy start and two-week shutdown, the club has renegotiated its partnership with Caesars Entertainment to stay keep the Rio club humming. Duplicating the club’s entrenched ambiance and NYC equity is not easy. It’s on the casino floor and not in a cellar, for starters, and no entertainment tradition can be achieved overnight.

But if the New York crew, led by ubiquitous co-owner Noam Dworman, does have a shot to succeed in Las Vegas if they can re-create the gritty-funny Greenwich Village vibe. The club’s business is likely to be boosted by a Comedy Central stand-up series centered on the New York club, titled, “This Week at the Comedy Cellar.” The cornerstone of the show, set to debut in the fall, is the fabled “comics table,” sort of green-room meeting point at the connected Olive Tree Cafe, which sits above the MacDougal Street club.

As we sat and chatted at that table late Friday night, Dworman said, “I think the Comedy Central show will really help business in Las Vegas. We like being there. We’re committed to it, but we know it will take time to grow the brand.”

As Dworman spoke, he checked his phone for Friday’s box-office numbers from the Rio. “First show a little slow, but second show was good.” And that is good. If the club is a hit, maybe we’ll set up a new “comic’s table, and chat with “Derek Crisp” about his Vegas debut.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Celine Dion’s lounge gig a boon to Las Vegas act

Celine Dion performed “Because You Loved Me,” “Ashes,” Beauty and the Beast” and “My Heart Will Go On.” Her arrival drew a roar from the 300 VIPs in attendance, who were not informed of the night’s entertainment.