30-year veteran of Vegas comedy clubs now runs one

Vegas Voices is a weekly question-and-answer series featuring notable Las Vegans.

In 1984, Harry Basil and Andrew Dice Clay were part of the opening lineup of the Comedy Store at the Dunes. Now, 32 years have brought them back to a Las Vegas comedy club: Basil runs the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory and Clay performs as a billed headliner beyond the weekly club lineup.

In the years between, Basil’s career has been all over the place. The comedian — who divides his time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas — never abandoned his act, which isn’t so much stand-up as a prop-comedy mash-up of visual jokes referencing pop culture and movies.

But a friendship and business alliance with Rodney Dangerfield led to screen credits as co-writer of “Ladybugs” and “Meet Wally Sparks” and, later, the chance to direct features himself.

In late 2011, Basil heard Brad Garrett was moving his comedy club from the Tropicana to the MGM Grand. “I had played that room for like 20 years when it was the Comedy Stop and when it was Rodney’s Place back in the early ’80s. I thought, what a great spot for a Laugh Factory.”

He was right. Basil couldn’t have foreseen the closing of the Riviera and its tenured comedy club. But the Laugh Factory is now the Strip’s only club format offering two shows a night. And on May 28, the special engagements with Clay will expand to the main showroom downstairs.

Review-Journal: Nobody can say you don’t know the Las Vegas comedy scene, since you were here on the ground floor when Mitzi Shore first brought the Comedy Store to town.

Basil: When we opened at the Dunes, the first week included Dice, Louie Anderson, Paul Rodriguez and Jim Carrey. Nobody knew who we were. We were on the cover of a magazine (On Stage), and it said ‘Band of unknown zanies invades the Dunes.’

People were coming because they heard about the Comedy Store. It’s five comedians. That had never been done before. Most of the time a headlining comic would have a singer open, or a headlining singer would have a comic.

R-J: And yet there is so much comedy here all the time now, from the clubs to big-ticket names such as Daniel Tosh and Gabriel Iglesias every weekend. What made you want to jump into this?

Basil: I told my partner Joseph (Merhi) that it has to be a brand, and the Laugh Factory is one of the hottest comedy brands in the business. It would be a big deal for them to step into the Las Vegas market.

Right now the club is the draw that brings people in. They know the chain. It’s a diverse audience. You have older people midweek and hipper, younger people on the weekends.

But we have been jumping into the headliner pool. If (the Clay show in the downstairs theater May 28) is successful, I want to try to lure in some of the other Strip headliners. We’re on a hot corner with major marquees and we spend money and promote … we just bought our second rolling billboard truck.

R-J: Working so many clubs as a comic surely taught you a few things about how to run, or how not to run one. But are you comedian-friendly to a fault when it comes to the hard-nosed business side of it?

Basil: I try to be a nice guy. Even when I directed movies I wanted to be a nice guy, not a yeller or a screamer and a jerk. But it’s tough sometimes when you get calls from old friends or old acquaintances you worked with and maybe a comic doesn’t really have it anymore. It’s hard to turn people down.

But I’m really rooting for people, and sometimes you’ll see an audition and hire someone and then realize once they’re there, they may not be cutting it. It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a while you get a new person, a young person, and they may find out the Vegas crowd is a little bit different. (The audience) is older. They expect more; the bar is raised higher.

I get so disappointed when they blow an audition. When I’m looking for a host and they’re just being dirty, filthy or mean, and I’m like, ‘What would make you think I would want to start off my show like that?’ It’s because some of these guys are doing one-nighters in bars and there’s no rules.

But it doesn’t happen very often. We’ve been open four years now, and I think I’ve only had to fire two people.

R-J: Your backstage green room on Saturday nights has become one of the worst-kept secrets in town as far as a gathering place for comedians and entertainers. How did all that get started?

Basil: It’s something we’ve been doing since we opened. The walls are covered with vintage comedy albums. I’m gonna buy a record player. We also have a library, I would say 50 or 60 books on comedy. And then the memorabilia. I have a huge Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis collection. The bar is called the Dean and Jerry bar.

We have karaoke and a dartboard out in the hall. It’s just fun. A great hang for the comics, kind of old-school. Dice has had Pitbull come with his entire entourage of 14 people. Bruno Mars was there a few weeks before that. The “Rock Vault” guys come up a lot. When Dice is there, you never know what VIPs are going to come. He’ll hang in the room sometimes two hours after the show.

R-J: What’s your status as a performing comedian now? Do you just go on when someone gets sick?

Basil: I was just the headliner two weeks ago. I’ll book myself twice a year. A lot of new movies are getting added (to the act). I’m lucky they keep remaking movies. I’ve done Batman and Superman in my act, and now that’s fresh again.

 

R-J: So you still run at that manic full tilt?

Basil: This is what I have to say: A fat man in his underwear is funny. But I don’t do “Risky Business” anymore. I was in better shape when I was younger and doing this all the time.

But a couple of weeks ago I got a call from “X Comedy” that something had happened, they’re in a bind, they don’t have a headliner. I just happened to have my prop bag with me so I raced over to the Flamingo on a Saturday night and performed. And I think it was the night Dice was opening here. So I raced back and I was like, “I can’t believe I just did a show.”

R-J: For someone who is technically the competition.

Basil: But I’m good friends with their (house) comics John Bizarre and Nancy Ryan. We all help each other out.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Famous Infinity Mirror Room is open in Las Vegas
Yayoi Kusama's "Aftermath of Obliteration of Infinity" mirror room is open at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Glittering Lights dazzles Las Vegas
The Glittering Lights holiday display is shining at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Mat Luschek/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Skybar at Waldorf Astoria lets you sip your way through Las Vegas history
Skybar At Waldorf Astoria Lets You Sip Your Way Through Las Vegas History (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stan Lee in Las Vegas for Madame Tussauds unveiling
Stan Lee Las Vegas speaks with the Review-Journal's Chris Lawrence about his love for his fans and shared universes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ultimate Belgium Waffle Sundae at Lavo
Lavo at the Palazzo serves a 16-scoop ice cream sundae that costs $800. (Rochelle Ricahrds, Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip
A New Zip Line Is Opening On The Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel lLas Vegas Review-Journal)
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip
You'll need a keen eye to find this secret bar on the Las Vegas Strip (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
"The Lion King" roars into Las Vegas
New music club 172 brings loud luxury to Las Vegas
New music venue at the Rio brings rock ’n’ roll and food together at intimate club. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fans fear for Zak Bagans’ safety in Las Vegas Halloween TV special
Fly Linq zip line time lapse
Fly Linq zip line timelapse
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Shaq opens Las Vegas restaurant, Big Chicken
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu
Robert Deniro And Chef Nobu Talk About The Success Of Nobu (Al Mancini Las Vegas Review-journal)
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center
Nevada Ballet Theatre rehearses for "Dracula" at The Smith Center (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Summerlin hosts its annual Festival of Arts
People crowd to Downtown Summerlin for the 23rd annual Summerlin Festival of Arts in Las Vegas, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recycled Art and Cute Dogs at Summerlin Festival Of Arts
Recycled Art, Cute Dogs Abound At Summerlin Festival Of Arts (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show
Bellagio Patisserie Creates Life-size Sculpture Of 20th Anniversary Of Cirque Du Soleil Show (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains
10 Most Iconic Moments At The Bellagio Fountains (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jason Aldean talks about the possibility of a Las Vegas residency
Country superstar Jason Aldean discusses his feelings about playing in Las Vegas and says he'd be interested in a Las Vegas residency when the time is right at the iHeart Radio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21, 2018.(John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US
Block 16 Urban Food Hall Serves Favorite Foods From Across The US (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment
Benny the Skating Dog could be the next Golden Knights on-ice entertainment (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Who To Watch At Life Is Beautiful
Life Is Beautiful Setup
Workers preparing Fremont street for this weekend's Life is Beautiful festival, on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The 46th annual Greek Food Festival will feed 25,000 people in Las Vegas
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip
Madame Tussauds Has The Newest VR Experience On The Strip. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zia Records Move
Zias Records is moving from its Sahara Avenue and Arville Street location to a bigger store. (Mat Luscheck/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies
Students At The International Contortion Convention In Las Vegas Learn How To Bend And Twist Their Bodies. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video from Fertitta wedding Sep. 1
video from @wedstagrams of Fertitta wedding at Red Rock Resort
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas
You Can Get Vegan Unicorn Toast In Downtown Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like