The last time vocalist Jennifer Holiday opened for a comedian on stage in Las Vegas, it was for Rosie O’Donnell, and Rosie really riled up her crowd with a raunchy cuss-fest that freaked out some tourists.
“Rosie was going through a really difficult time in ’97,” says Holiday, who came to fame on Broadway’s "Dreamgirls." “Baby, she came out there, and they had all these people from the Midwest, and Rosie was a-cussing, and people were like, ‘Who is this?! Is this the lady from TV?’”
“Oh Lord, oh Lord, I was like, ‘Oh God, I don’t know how she’s going to get through this one,’ because they didn’t know she was like that.”
Holiday felt bad for Rosie and for her audience:
“A lot of people walked out. I had never seen anything like that before. I felt for her, because she said, ‘I just want to be me.’ And I said, ‘Honey, it’s not gonna be this trip. You’re not gonna ‘be me’ this trip, or Caesars is fixing to make you give them a check.’”
Comedians usually hire comedians to open for them. Holiday is one of the rare singers who has opened for big-name stand-ups. Starting tonight, she opens for George Wallace at the Flamingo. But before Rosie, she opened for George Burns at Caesars.
Burns told her: “OK, kid, you gotta big voice, but my audience — they may not understand about it [having] so much volume. But other than that, boy you got a lot of energy.”
“He was very gracious,” Holiday says.
She’s surprised comedians think her music isn’t too emotional to follow.
“I’m just not sure why it works, but it does.”