What’s the best way to beat the Monday blues? Well this week, our vice was a dose of hilarity at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the basement of the MGM Grand. With a lineup of outstanding comedians performing seven nights a week with scheduled performances by the club’s namesake throughout each month, this unassuming comedy club definitely proved itself considering that we are still giggling four days after we attended the show.
Garrett has been performing in Vegas for nearly 30 years and we have a strong feeling that his intimate comedy venue (with a vibe similar to that of a New York club) will be around for many years to come. After the show and before we even had a chance to rest our abs from laughing so hard, we had a chance to catch up with Brad Garrett backstage to ask him a little bit about his club and just exactly how he became so damn funny.
Vegas.com: If you could only perform one last show, who would be in your audience?
Brad Garrett: Well, it’s funny you say that. Izzy (Garrett’s fiancée) for sure but you know what’s weird, and I know a lot of comics feel this way, when it’s people I know or family, it’s just a lot harder for me. So just a bunch of wonderful strangers that can take a punch would be great. I never put friends of family in the front because when other people see you hang out later, they think it’s set up so I love strangers in a weird way.
VDC: Who are some of your comedic heroes?
BG: I saw Steve Martin and Martin Short last night who are really, really two of my heroes, you know? And I saw Steve in 1970 and the Blues Brothers opened up for him and you know you see someone like that, you know that you will never be anywhere near that level, but sometimes it just sparks something in you and it was really kind of him and Don Rickles that really sparked me wanting to do all of this. Last night was just two hours of hilarity that didn’t stop. I saw that show and just wanted to go put my head in the oven. It just such a level that you watch and it’s just so good.
VDC: How did Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club come to be?
BG: Well, I always wanted my own club. I loved working with Ray Romano, we still do some dates around the country. To be honest, I think I was a little tangy for that room. It’s a room where I do what I did there and it worked really, really great but I think Ray is amazing writer, which is really kind of meant to be, it’s an amazing comedy room but I’ve always wanted my own club and Richard Sturm who is one of the heads of MGM — he used to work at Bally’s — gave me one of my first gigs ever and then when they opened here, this is before I was on “Raymond,” I would open for their different acts and then when “Raymond” took off, I would start headlining some of their rooms and I told Richard early on that I would one day love to have my own comedy club here because I love to get acts in here that really need to be seen and should be seen and deserve a Vegas room and I think for any comic, the clubs are your roots. It’s where you start, it’s where you die, it’s where you do OK, and it just has that intimate feel.
So, I went to the Tropicana and I tried that room for awhile and then Richard called and said, if you don’t mind being in the basement, you can build your club. I said, well that kind of fits me, it fits my style, I don’t belong above sea level and we just built it from scratch. This used to be a handbag store, we built this club four years ago and I am having the time of my life, I love it here.
VDC: How would you explain your comedic style?
BG: Very audience-driven. It’s an old-school type of humor. A lot of improv, there are things that are my staple but the show is pretty much different every time because everyone in the audience is different. There are nights it works better than others and if I don’t have a front row that is really into it we try to get them there. There are some people that I didn’t touch because you sometimes see fear in their eyes, and then there are some who are just really digging it more but I really have to be able to think on my feet and zig and zag because if it becomes too uncomfortable for someone and they are not enjoying it or laughing along with it, then the audience will be on their side, as they should be, so it’s kind of my job to kind of find out who’s having fun and if I have to go back to the old tired act, I’ll go in and out of that. But when I was an opening act, during the first 12 minutes people are talking through your act because nobody is there to see you and that’s when I decided that I just need to start rattling these people because I’m dying up here. So that’s when I kind of developed working that front row. When you’re an unknown and you’re opening act and you’re making fun of a guy in the front row and the audience gets on it, it became my signature.
VDC: Is there a particular moment in your career where a night has gone terribly wrong?
BG: It’s been awhile. Back in the days, especially when you’re not known, my style could go very wrong. I worked a strip club when I started out in Canada and it was a lumberjack town and they didn’t tell me it was a strip club, they just said that it was a place that did comedy late night and they paid 40 bucks a set and I show up and was thinking “why is there a shower on stage?” and about 10 minutes into it, I took a Heineken bottle to the melon.
But when I did start out, it was a lot tamer and a lot friendlier but as I got older, I just kind of developed into this a**hole, which couldn’t be further from me to be honest, which is why I think I get away with it because they know I am not that way. And I also played a character for nine years that was always sh*t on TV so I think I come to the audience with a little more… you know, there are some people who think I am going to be Robert and are horrified. One night I had an older couple — old, old — on scooters that about five minutes into the show they started up their scooters and started leaving while talking very loud about how they were not happy and it was so funny. They were driving their scooters and knocking into everybody. And I see these orange flags navigating through the room and I’ve had people walk out but I’ve never had anyone drive out. But they got such a huge laugh leaving, nobody could believe it and people were like, “you’ve got to get them to come back every night.”
VDC: When you’re not performing in town, what do you like to do?
BG: We are big foodies so that’s really the only thing that we do. We love Scarpetta over at The Cosmopolitan, we love Milos, Mesa at Caesars, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Sushi Samba.