Mirage’s comics laugh all the way to the bank

You can quibble with numbers but the big picture is undeniable: Headline The Mirage as a comedian, and you are in some high-dollar company.

If you are one of two comedians currently booked for the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, you aren’t doing so bad either.

Forbes magazine recently released its list of the year’s top-earning comedians, and five of the names work the same 1,260-seat theater at The Mirage.

Both the No. 1 earner, Jerry Seinfeld (with $27 million in estimated earnings), and No. 4 Jeff Dunham ($19 million) play the larger Colosseum at Caesars Palace, but fewer times per year than most stand-ups in The Mirage’s rotation: Daniel Tosh, Gabriel Iglesias (each estimated at $11 million), George Lopez ($12 million) and Ron White ($10 million).

The list’s real surprise was Mirage headliner Terry Fator in the No. 2 spot, with an estimated $24 million in annual earnings (the period estimated was from June 1, 2012, to June 1 this year). “It’s an awful long way from before 2007,” Fator says with a laugh of his rise after winning TV’s “America’s Got Talent.”

No one argues with the magazine’s logic that Fator performs more shows than any other comedian on the list: He used to do 200 per year at The Mirage, but this year cut back closer to 160, so he could pursue more bookings out of town.

Forbes says its earnings numbers are based on pretax gross income. Using the most generous calculations of near-sellouts and full-priced sales, Fator’s Mirage shows could gross as much as $23 million. More conservative estimates (with a lower average ticket price and average attendance of 800 instead of 1,100) would push the annual gross down to $12.6 million or less.

Fator is not given a salary guarantee by The Mirage, and has expenses such as marketing and production costs. He agrees “the numbers are real, but I also employ 30 people and we spend a lot of money on advertising and everything. It’s not like we’re sitting on piles of money here.”

But with so many names on the Forbes list rotating in the room, no one can argue with the “Aces of Comedy” branding, or that headliners boost their earnings with the ticket prices they pull at The Mirage (an $81 average price for Jim Gaffigan last weekend, $87 for Jay Leno this weekend).

“People have been trained, this is the place to see the best comedians in Vegas, every week,” the series’ promoter, Bill Blumenreich, says.

“Every big act really wants to play or needs to play Vegas. Some of these acts make more money in other cities, and some of them just sell better in Vegas,” he adds, citing White as an example of the latter.

Blumenreich notes he is keeping the rotation fresh with recent bookings at or near capacity by Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari and Bill Burr.

By the way, Fator on Wednesday did a nonticketed dry run of “It Starts Tonight,” the new, autobiographical show he plans to perform on road dates away from The Mirage. A companion album with the same title, which has the ventriloquist singing in his own voice, should be on sale at his shows within the month. …

The hazards of having your showroom next to very busy restrooms in a very large, not-so-new hotel?

A maintenance project is blocking access to the Flamingo’s smaller showroom, causing “X Burlesque” to take an unplanned vacation that began July 12 and continues at least until Monday, and perhaps until July 26.

Comedian Vinnie Favorito shares the 200-seat showroom, but he was able to move into a small banquet room on property. However, “X” producer Angela Stabile says her show is more elaborate, and it doesn’t make sense to try to move all the gear and program lighting in a new room. …

I worried a little bit about Bally’s “Jubilee!” when it moved impressionist Veronic DiCaire in there as a Thursday-Saturday roommate for the city’s last golden-age feather show, trimming its number of weekly performances.

Was it the beginning of the end for the musical that opened in 1981? It hasn’t had a significant face-lift since computerized lighting was installed nine years ago.

Well here’s a double dose of good news for Samson and Delilah fans.

First, the show is holding new auditions for dancers and singers on Monday.

But the better news in the long term may be that Bally’s is renaming its newly remodeled south tower the Jubilee Tower. Sure, it costs less to change a few signs than to remodel 756 hotel rooms. But you have to think it wouldn’t bother if the old showgirl was on her last legs.

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

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