Hooters Hotel shows offer lowbrow fun with comedy, beefcake

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of seeing shows at Hooters Hotel takes on more appeal during one of the hottest, dog-day summer weeks of the year.

Once-a-year visitors don’t have the luxury of Las Vegas locals or those who do the Interstate 15 crawl from California. If summer is your only chance to sit up straight and pay attention to "Phantom" or "O," you probably should go for it.

But there is an alternative: Kick back, pull up a beer and drop any walls of separation to Todd Paul, a Northern California "dude" comic who is a $25 ticket and just perfect for the downscale atmosphere of the glorified lounge.

Same goes for the bachelorettes who want to see the booty-shakin’ "Men of X" drop most of the pretense of an overly slick "show" and cut to the cheap, campy raunch.

The two offerings have moved into the Night Owl Showroom (it’s really more of a bar).

Paul is the more essential. He’s as easy to recommend as Mac King or the Amazing Johnathan, even though he’s as different from both as they are from one another. Like them, Paul has created a distinct persona that pulls together an oddball act fusing comedy, magic and — in his case — juggling.

He actually started as a juggler, before honing his crowd-participation skills with San Francisco street theater, eventually becoming a comedy-club headliner. If Paul’s name is familiar, you might have seen him at the Riviera or Tropicana clubs at some point in the past 10 years.

Reprinting anything he says doesn’t do him justice, because it’s all in the way he says it: a genial stoner-hippie patois sprinkled with "dude" and "brother" and a kind of Okie twang.

It’s actually funny when he says, "Lots of people are expecting a magic show … ’cause it says it out on the poster." Or, "I call (my sound guy) Gay Chad because … he’s a homosexual."

Likewise, it’s all in the getting there when it takes 20 minutes, a unicycle, a sword and two guys from the crowd to do a card trick. The payoff is still delayed until nearly the end of the hour set.

Formal stand-up, with punch lines and all that, takes a backseat to the banter, where any scripted jokes are hidden: "You don’t have to do a show. I got one planned," Paul instructs an audience recruit. "You’re doing the best you can. … It’s just not (expletive) good enough."

Comedy clubs love Paul because he breaks up a roster of people who just hold the microphone and deliver monologues. He plays Hendrix riffs on guitar, twists obscene balloon animals while reciting beat poetry and jumps — from a stool — into his own pants, held apart for him by two women from the crowd.

Las Vegas has way too many headliner comedians already, but sometimes you just have to make room for one more.

It’s debatable whether we need another male revue either, and I’m admittedly not the best person to ask. But I can declare "Men of X" to be more of a hoot than its girlie-show counterpart, "X Burlesque," staged at the Flamingo Las Vegas by the same producers, Angela and Matt Stabile.

Granted, much of the difference lies in convention and in different standards of conduct. Men take their boobies seriously. Women seem to laugh more at their beefcake. And they’re allowed to reach up and grope a sweaty chest, which would get a guy tossed out at the Flamingo.

And the six stars of "Men of X" are better dancers, something relatively unimportant to male customers at "X Burlesque." The funny emcee, who goes by J. Boogie, even competed last year on ABC’s short-lived "Dance Machine."

If the gals can sit patiently through an opening that recalls "X Burlesque" at its pretentious worst — guys posing in hooded cloaks in front of a video screen while heroic music blisters the limits of the sound system — they’re in for some lowbrow fun. The formalities gradually seem to break down into a kind of free for all (if the show has anything in common with roommate Paul, it’s that the structure is hidden).

Doctors in lab coats and tighty whiteys (Deangelo Carrera and Marcus Deni) give the whole porno-movie exam to an audience recruit. There’s a vampire (Carrera) framed by guys in werewolf masks. There’s a "Matrix" thing with karate moves and nunchucks by Steve Kim, who also takes a shower onstage in the part that shows the most.

The weirdest? A Michael Jackson tribute where the gloved one morphs into a buff guy, Jalles Franca.

Just another summer night in Vegas. Or at least at Hooters.

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

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