Most people imagine the life of a stand-up comic as a long series of anonymous hotel rooms and performing endless one-night gigs in dingy clubs with brick walls. Vinnie Favorito has been performing almost exclusively in Las Vegas since 2003, and he squeezed an interview in between two visits to his children’s schools.
“I’ve got two beautiful kids,” Favorito said. “I’m an older parent, but I’m glad it worked out this way. My wife doesn’t work, and I’m off 22 hours a day, so our kids have both of their parents the rest of the time.”
Favorito has a 30-year history of performing in Las Vegas and has remained in fairly stable shows, working the same venues every few months or headlining multiple-year engagements.
“It’s awesome,” Favorito said. “I have a great family and a great support system. Now I have a new family, (Red Mercury Entertainment). I’ve never been with such a professional crew as I am now. I’ve never been with a group that really cares the way this one does.”
Chandra Knee-Stepanovich, vice president and head of public relations for Red Mercury Entertainment, said that the company was initially formed to build a new solution for ticketing and box office management and the production of shows. The company was so eager to bring Favorito into its fold that it negotiated him out of his contract at his previous gig.
“We’ve all been fans of Vinnie for a long time,” Knee-Stepanovich said. “We had a spot to fill at Westgate, and Vinnie was perfect for it. He has a fanbase that will come to Las Vegas specifically to see his show.”
Favorito’s roots are in inner city Boston. His peers in his early days on the Boston comedy circuit included Joe Rogan, Nick Dipaolo, Jackie Flynn, Louis C.K., and David Cross.
“I started when Boston had comedy on every corner, and it was in every suburb in Maine and New Hampshire,” Favorito said. “If you had a painter’s light and a microphone, you were doing a comedy show.”
He performed steadily in and near Boston for a decade, with occasional shows out of town, including gigs every couple months or so in Las Vegas, but he never had to go on the road for extended periods. He was frequently billed with the likes of Drew Carey and Ray Romano doing three- or four-man shows. By 1998, Nick’s Comedy Stop had become his business manager, and it sent him out to Los Angeles, where he settled in for five years. He was welcome at any comedy club.
He won the prestigious San Francisco Comedy Competition in 1998 and received offers for television deals, but it was a pilot for the Fox Family sitcom called “Favorite Family” that indirectly led to his next big move.
“Just as we did the pilot, Fox Family got sold,” Favorito said. “We didn’t get picked up for whatever reason. I had two dreams — either to do a sitcom or to have my own show in Vegas — so when that didn’t go, and I got offered a show in Vegas — boom. I had been playing there every couple of months, and I was their biggest ticket seller, so they approached me about having my own show.”
His new show is “Vinnie Favorito Unfiltered” at 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at the Westgate, 3000 Paradise Road. The show is simply Favorito interacting with his audience without an opening act or even a big fanfare when it starts.
“I pretty much just walk out and do an hour to an hour (and) fifteen,” Favorito said. “Then I have to get off the stage before the next show comes in. It’s a free-for-all. Every night, it’s different.”
His shows revolve around ad libs with the audience. While many comedians will tap the well of the audience, asking their name and where they’re from to do a little riff before going off on a prepared routine, Favorito tends to dig a little deeper. Most nights, he ends up talking to 30 or more audience members, working their personal details and verbal gaffs into a unique performance.
“I’m the only show in town where they tip to sit in the back,” Favorito said. “Milton Berle, God rest his soul, gave me a nickname: Rickles with venom.”
Despite the good-natured ribbing, the audience eats it up, even the unwitting targets of the act. Favorito said in every show, he’ll have people who have seen his performance five or more times. At a recent show, a woman announced that it was her 50th time seeing the comic.
He has performed in several venues in town, but he feels like he’s found a home at the Westgate and with Red Mercury Entertainment.
“This is my last stop,” Favorito said. “I don’t know how you can pry me out of this group. Unless I screw it up, I’m staying with them.”
Although he doesn’t intend to leave his new show, he may expand on it soon with the return of a longtime Vegas staple, the celebrity roast.
“I want to do the real Dean Martin-type roast right here at Westgate,” Favorito said. “It could be Britney Spears, Arnold Schwarzenegger or other big stars. What better place to bring it back? Elvis made this place (the Las Vegas Hilton) famous. This is old school.”
Las Vegas is home for Favorito and his family now, and they have no intention of going anywhere else.
“What I love about Las Vegas is that they come to you,” Favorito. “If I was touring, I’d have to adjust myself to the region, but here, they come to you, and they come from all over. Our audience has people from all over the country, all over the world, and we get the young, the elderly, black, white, straight, gay … They all come here. No matter how bad things get in the rest of the world, people are still coming here.”
Favorito cited what he called a perfect example, when he got a call the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, from a Las Vegas venue asking him if he could come out and perform for two weeks. He asked the booker if he was watching what was going on on television, if they were somehow unaware of the terrorist attacks. The booker told him that despite that, they were still doing shows, and the comedians that had been booked couldn’t fly out. He was living in Santa Monica at the time.
“I packed up, I got in the car, and I drove,” Favorito said. “Nothing stops Las Vegas.”
“Vinnie Favorito Unfiltered” is scheduled at 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at the Westgate, 3000 Paradise Road. Tickets are $49 to $125. Visit VinnieUnfiltered.com.
To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-380-4532.
“Vinnie Favorito Unfiltered”
When: 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays
Where: Westgate, 3000 Paradise Road
Tickets: $49 to $125; visit VinnieUnfiltered.com.