Vinnie Favorito, ‘X Burlesque’

When it gets tougher to sell a show ticket during an economic nose dive, what are two sure-fire genres that still pack ’em in?

I got the "topless babe" part right away. But I never would have figured the insult-comic thing.

While most shows are discounting like crazy to fill seats, Vinnie Favorito is running so strong at the Flamingo Las Vegas that he is adding shows. This week, Favorito starts doing an extra 6 p.m. set on Saturdays, along with his daily ones at 8 p.m.

The Boston comedian carrying on the Don Rickles tradition can’t do late-night sets because he shares the 200-seat Bugsy’s Cabaret with "X Burlesque," which also is open seven nights a week. (Producer Angela Stabile says "Men of X" will go into Hooters Hotel after comedian Bobby Slayton leaves in March.)

And guess what? "X" has a comedian, Nancy Ryan, who devotes the bulk of her time to lowering the self-esteem of audience members.

Could be we’re just all feeling a little down on ourselves right now.

At least Favorito has refined his ethnic humor to fit our blended society. He has his black jokes and his Mexican jokes, but when he finds a couple with one of each he asks, "When something’s missing, who do you blame?"

How do you explain this Archie Bunker-era stuff going over so big now? Maybe there’s an undercurrent of nostalgia for a simpler era of chop-busting. Just as big-city hipsters are starting to make trail boots and hunting garb into high fashion, emasculated males may miss the likable guy’s guy who can reduce everyone around him to a skin color and what they do for a living.

Or perhaps, because we’ve moved so far past those simple lines in the real world, it’s just harmlessly ridiculous when Favorito acts mock-astonished that a Mexican couple has no children. "And you’ve been together two years? What, were you in prison for a while?"

Either way, there is something direct and kinetic about a guy keeping you on the edge of your seat, wondering if you’re next. The big name comedians do the same set whether you’re there or not. Favorito spends all but the first five minutes riffing with the crowd.

Some of it is a sneaky way of packaging stock material. I’m sure that anytime he uncovers someone from India, Favorito will ask, "Do you have 7-Elevens there? And if so, is it a white guy workin’ there?"

But it’s a genuine high-wire act to parse a joke out of occupations such as "medical recruiter," and to tie the jokes back to previous victims.

One guy is already in trouble for having the comparably low-risk job of sorting Army mail, standing accused of intercepting goodies bound for the fighting troops. But then Favorito finds out the man has been engaged for four years: "You’re waiting for someone to mail a ring?"

If anything, you learn about all the diverse ways people in one Las Vegas audience make a living, from farmer to math teacher to a scientist working for the Department of Defense. But be prepared to duck if you’re a cop or in airport security.

Too bad there were no Wall Street investment bankers in the house.

"X Burlesque" threw itself a party last week to debut a new edition, which shows enterprise even if it’s just a matter of switching out music and putting on cowboy hats for a Trace Adkins song.

Meeka Onstead’s athletic turn to the new James Bond theme "Another Way to Die" signals the show’s ambition to be a cut above the usual strip-club bump and grind, although there is a stripper pole in the house.

"X Burlesque" remains the edgier, rock ‘n’ roll choice of the casino topless shows. It defines itself through its good taste in music, like the guy in the dorm who is overly eager to show off his iPod playlist. You not only get the predictable Christina Aguilera "Nasty, Naughty Boy," but songs you never took for erotic inspiration, such as Muse’s "City of Delusion."

There’s no reason to mess with the proven group numbers, such as the flight attendants pulling a guy from the audience, and a sexy bit involving two gals and a bathtub.

It’s braver to try to be sexy than funny, and except for some wit built into the songs — Cher Westcott coolly mouthing the pick-up lines of Touch and Go’s "Would You…?" — it’s up to comedian Nancy Ryan to break the fourth-wall, or the spell if the gals were entrancing you.

And if you’re in Las Vegas to get married on Valentine’s weekend, bringing your fiancee to this topless show? Ryan is going to tell everyone you’re an "asshole."

That seems to be what people want to hear these days.

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

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