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Brad Garrett shells out big for new club

Brad Garrett eyes his handsome new comedy club and announces, “You’re looking at a lot of ‘Raymond’ money. The end of the ‘Raymond’ money.”

But it takes a lot of clams to pay for clamshell footlights and velvety red curtains. Those are just a couple of details distinguishing the new Brad Garrett Comedy Club at the MGM from all the recession-inspired comedy rooms springing up in cigar lounges, former restaurants and Sammy Hagar-themed cantinas.

“I want it to be the premier club,” he says. “We just went for it here.” He points to old-Vegasy booths along the back wall and notes the cocktail tables will only seat two, pre-empting awkward date-night chats with strangers.

“I think if we make it the best room with the best comics, I don’t worry about the little cigar places and the smaller rooms that really aren’t comedy rooms.”

Garrett inaugurates the new 275-seat club in a private show today, then sticks around to perform for the paying public through Wednesday. As he did when the club was across the street at the Tropicana, Garrett will perform nine shows each month as a billed headliner (with a higher ticket price), but will still turn up on other nights to surprise patrons by seating them or opening the shows.

“Listen, I need to be loved. I’m a very lonely man,” he says.

More seriously, the comedian says, “I never looked at it as a business thing, because if you want a business you don’t buy a restaurant or a club. This is just really a true, true passion thing.”

The 6-foot-8 comedian, best known from his years on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” operated the Tropicana space long known as The Comedy Stop from June 2010 through last December. But “it wasn’t going great over there,” he says, and MGM executives he’s known for years offered him the chance to build out the new space, which consolidates three former shops in the retail corridor connecting the hotel lobby to its parking garage.

“I learned a lot across the street. I learned a lot,” he says, comparing the move as from “the farm leagues” to “the majors.”

Garrett financed the buildout of the space while the hotel keeps bar revenues. But he describes his arrangement with the MGM as “generous” in terms of rent and accommodations for the comedians.

The club may offer jazz on certain nights, but Garrett says he is resisting proposals to sublet to magicians or other afternoon performers. “That’s not what we do. It’s a nighttime endeavor,” he says. However, he is talking to cable networks about shooting comedy specials inside the room. …

As Garrett’s club relaunches, “Vegas Magic Theatre” at the Gold Coast takes what is being called “a hiatus” after Sunday night. Producer Paul Stone opened the venture in December, adapting the usual comedy club format to magic and variety acts.

“I think it’s one of the best fits we’ve had in there,” Terry Jenkins, who oversees entertainment for Boyd Gaming Corp., says of the “odd little showroom.” But Stone opted to take a timeout after his initial contract runs its course at the end of the month.

“We need to stand back from it awhile,” says the producer, who plans at least a three-month break.

Management is willing to mark time by using the room as a conventional lounge. “There’s nothing waiting in the wings to fill the space,” Jenkins says.

Stone doesn’t want to tip competitors to the specifics of his plan, but says “we realized what the room is capable of,” and “there’s a lot more we can do show-wise. I want to make it more of an experience.”

Meanwhile, at the nearby Orleans, Jenkins says business has improved at Big Al’s Comedy Club, which is now booked in-house instead of by comedy promoter Joe Sanfelippo. Dropping the price to $20 (including a drink) and changing the lineup weekly instead of monthly, has pulled more locals; tourists already have too many comedy choices on the Strip to invest in a cab ride, Jenkins says. …

All three ticketed shows at Hooters Hotel are moving on as the hotel plans to convert its show space into an open lounge that feeds out into the casino.

The Prince tribute band Purple Reign wrapped it up Sunday and reopens Tuesday at The D (formerly Fitzgeralds). Producer Angela Stabile also closed her “Raack N Roll” Wednesday, as well as “Men of X,” which played upstairs in a separate show space.

A casino spokeswoman confirms the near-future plan is to remove the glass walls that close off the casino floor venue, which would make it logistically and legally tricky to have topless shows or those which charge an admission.

Stabile says she was sorry to pull “Raack,” because it was running at capacity in the 200-seat room after its October debut. She doesn’t think it will be hard to relocate either show. “We didn’t realize all these places needed entertainment until we had to leave Hooters,” she says. …

Finally, if you’ve been watching Penn Jillette’s run on “Celebrity Apprentice,” you know he stands a good chance of winning the Donald Trump firing game. (And now that Adam Carolla’s off it, there’s only Lisa Lampanelli to divide my loyalty.)

Sunday’s show promises a special appearance by the Blue Man Group, whose founders Penn & Teller always credit for encouraging them to move to Las Vegas. Penn & Teller also are gearing up for their 11th year as grand marshals of the Aid for AIDS of Nevada AIDS Walk on April 15.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at
mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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