By Caroline FonteinVEGAS.com
Brad Garrett has always considered Las Vegas to be a second home. Most people know Garrett for his role as Robert Barone, on the Emmy Award-winning TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Before he was entertaining TV audiences, Garrett was making people laugh as the opening act for headliners on the Las Vegas Strip including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli and Smokey Robinson. September will mark his 25th year of performing on the Strip. Garrett has another important date to celebrate. At the end of June his self-titled comedy club at the Tropicana is celebrating its one-year anniversary.
“You know I love Vegas, and I never would have opened a club there if I didn’t. You have to really dig the town you’re going into,” said Garrett.
He runs the comedy club and makes special guest appearances there along with touring other comedy clubs across the country. Every city has something unique to offer when it comes to performing, and for Garrett Vegas has always been one of his favorites.
“When you play Vegas, it’s the melting pot. You get a little of each pocket of the country. For me it’s always been the best audience,” said Garrett.
He’s very hands-on with with every aspect of operating his club f rom booking comedians to making sure that the people running the showroom maintain a level of customer service that dates back to the days when a maître’d would individually seat people and there was a personal connection between the club and its guests.
“I stress with the people running the room that we have to have that personal edge. That’s the only way we can stay competitive,” said Garrett.
Being competitive is one of the most important and expensive aspects of running the club. About 70 percent of the club’s revenue goes to advertising and promotions.
“You constant ly have to keep the club’s name out there. I think it’s an expense which you have no idea until you get into it. Our advertising budget is double or triple what it takes to run the club. I think that’s something you learn along the way,” said Garrett.
His comedic background h e l p s h i m h a v e a n advantage over other clubs on the Strip. Garrett’s relationships with well-known performers enable him to add an element of surprise to his club. Other comedians including Ray Romano and Ron White have dropped in unannounced to perform surprise sets at the club. It’s an added touch that goes back to providing guests with a personal experience.
“When you have 40 hotels on the Strip it comes down to personal service because people want to feel that they’re cared for, as corny as that may sound.
At the end of the day, that’s why people go on vacat ion because they don’t feel that they’re cared for at home,” quipped Garrett.
Garrett doesn’t just focus on how his audience is treated. He also makes his comedians a top priority. One of the most rewarding things about having the club is it gives Garrett an opportunity to showcase up-and-coming comics who might not otherwise come to Vegas.
“People don’t help each other as much anymore, especially in this industry. It’s so competitive and there’s a lot of jealousy that revolves around it. A lot of people forget to pass it on and get some of the other people that are newer or not as well known in the spotlight when they deserve it,” said Garrett.
He’s been lucky with his career, and he enjoys giving others some insight to what helped him be successful. Along with continuing to tour, run his club and perform as both an actor and voice actor in upcoming projects, Garrett teaches sitcom acting classes at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica, Calif.
“What I try to teach is to really have freedom when you’re on stage. To do comedy you can’t look at yourself. You have to bring out the child in you. You have to bring out the side of you that refused to grow up,” said Garrett.
He had no problem bringing out that side during the nine years he performed on “Ever ybody Love s Raymond.” The only down side is that some audiences expect Garrett to act like his character when they see him do stand-up comedy.
“That’s a good thing for an actor because you’ve done something that has stayed with people. At the same time, especially for a comic, if that isn’t your on-stage persona, you have to re-educate people,” said Garrett.
Audiences at his shows quickly learn that Garrett’s real life personality is nothing like his downtrodden character Robert. Garrett has a boisterous personality, fitting for his 6-foot- 8-inch frame. His act is part improv and part prepared material that he customizes to Vegas audiences when he performs at the Tropicana.
“If you don’t want to be involved, and if you don’t have a strong constitution, don’t sit in the front. What I love about doing my comedy is I involve the audience. I love to level the playing field. There’s no dignity. There’s no ego. It’s a fun roast,” said Garrett.
Having an edgy comedy routine is something that Garrett says is especially suited to Vegas.
“It’s a crazy town. It’s everything that anyone wants. I think with that comes the freedom and relaxation to have a good time,” said Garrett. “In Vegas you get off the plane and you say, ‘Ok. I’m either going to go home with a piercing or a kitten.’”