Wayne Brady has been a busy man since busting onto the national scene in the late ’90s on “Whose Line is it Anyway?” with Drew Carey.
He has gone from the amazingly funny guy with a supremely talented voice to that same person hosting a number of shows like his own daytime talk show, a variety show, ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ guest appearances on “How I Met Your Mother,” not to mention a number of tours.
But through it all, Brady has made Vegas somewhat of a second home over the last three years with shows at the Venetian and now at Planet Hollywood. The multitalented performer, who will begin a run of four shows at Planet Hollywood beginning Friday, took some time out of his schedule to talk with VEGAS.com.
VDC: Wayne, what can people expect from your show?
Brady: “I’m doing the show based on the fact that I’ve been a Vegas headliner for years now. Based on the fact that it’s had a consistent theme or show line and I hope that you, or whoever, is watching or reading would know that. If they haven’t been through Vegas, I can tell them what to expect. It’s a pretty well known variety-improv show, so it’s not something that’s starting from scratch…So folks can pretty much expect improv, musical improv and everything else.”
VDC: You seem to be natural at improv, but how much work does it involve?
Brady: “… Just years of doing and doing it in small theaters for 10 people and workshops and eventually you go from being horrible every night to being horrible every other night, to being horrible maybe twice a week and then you’re not so horrible anymore and people actually laugh with you and not at you.”
VDC: Between the show and “Let’s Make a Deal,” why do you keep coming back to Vegas?
Brady: “Vegas is the touring without the tour. I can do great shows in front of a lot of people and still make my way by plane 45 minutes back to Los Angeles.”
VDC: Would like to have a permanent residency here?
Brady: “I already had a permanent residency, but I’m not there anymore because unlike people who have permanent residencies, I’m on TV full time, I still tour and I’ve got my albums. Vegas is a wonderful outlet and a great place for me to do what I do. So I always think of it as a part-time home and as long as Vegas will have me, then I’ll have Vegas.”
VDC: Who are your professional inspirations?
Brady: “Anywhere from Sammy Davis Jr., to Gene Kelly, to Danny Kaye, to Robin Williams to Richard Pryor, Sidney Poitier.
“I’m not a typical stand up, so I don’t have ‘comedic influences.’ I started off in theater and this isn’t even where I thought I would be so a lot of the guys that I watched growing up were musical theater performers and they were sketch guys and they were movie guys.
“So that’s why I do the type of improv that I do because I bring all of that to it and I bring all of those influences. I try to bring the Sammy Davis influence as a showman, I try to bring the Danny Kaye, the Ernie Kovacs, the old school, I try to bring the Cosby influence, I try to bring Robin Williams off the cuff, you never know what’s going to happen next. The Whoopi Goldberg and her characters, the John Leguizamo, Carol Burnett. Those were all the guys that helped make me me.”
VDC: It sounds like you have chosen some good qualities from a lot of good performers.
Brady: “Instead of saying, ‘I want to do this like someone,’ I picked out the qualities that I liked and then said, ‘What can I do to get that quality, but not try to imitate anybody?’ In terms of, ‘Oh he does that just like this guy.’ No, I don’t want to be the next whomever, I want to be the first me and I think everyone ought to shoot for that.”
VDC: You said you didn’t think your career would be where it is today, where did you think your career would be?
Brady: “I always figured that I would be on Broadway. I never thought I’d be on TV, all I ever wanted or said to myself was I wanted to be a working actor and make that my life’s work and there are plenty of people that just work and you never hear of them and I just figured that would be me. And I thought maybe if I was lucky I would get to Broadway and maybe win a Tony or become a Broadway star and then I’ll have a recording career. That was the most that I wanted.”
VDC: You recently did a production of “Rent” at the Hollywood Bowl, how was that?
Brady: “It was great. It was the Hollywood Bowl, that’s pretty amazing playing in front of 18,000 people nightly and to do it with such an amazing cast like Nicole Scherzinger from the Pussycat Dolls, Neil Patrick Harris was the director, who I play his brother on ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ on CBS, and Vanessa Hudgens from ‘High School Musical’ fame and a lot of really incredible Broadway folks.
“It’s just the type of thing that I love to do to show people that yeah, you can host a daytime game show, you can star in a big rock musical, you can play Las Vegas, you can make guest appearances on a sitcom, why not?”
VDC: Over the last few years you’ve done a lot, is there one role you’re looking for?
Brady: “Not necessarily one role, but the one role I think that will get me that Tony on Broadway and I really would love to star in a sitcom now rather than making guest appearances and I’d like another Grammy nomination. I have one on my mantle already and I’d like another one. So I figure I’m still young, I’m 38, I’ve got a couple decades left of doing this if not more, so I’m taking my time.”
VDC: One of my favorite skits was the “Training Day” piece from “The Dave Chappelle Show,” how did that come about?
Brady: “Dave Chappelle reached out to me and said, ‘Hey let’s get together and do a sketch.’ Which I thought wow, great because I love the show and I was finishing up the talk show then I wanted something that was so different than the rated-G audience, family audience stuff that I had been doing to make a return to the broader adult stuff that I had been doing when I started off.
“He and his partner Neal (Brennan, the show’s co-creator) came up with the ‘Training Day’ theme and I wrote the part where I killed the police officer and at the very end when I’m bullying him for his sandwich. So we put our two ideas together and made an incredible sketch that is now in the Hall of Fame.”
VDC: What was the reaction you heard when people saw the skit?
Brady: “Everybody loved the skit. They thought it was funny because of doing the family stuff. And to this day I can’t go somewhere without someone thinking they’re the first person to say, ‘Hey, does Wayne Brady have to choke a bi—?’ Or more often, they actually malign it, ‘Hey, does Wayne Brady have to slap a ho,’ or whatever.
“And in a way, it’s a little bit annoying because I’ve done so much in my life that that’s a sketch to me, that’s one thing but so many people like it. They’re like, ‘Hey, I’m going to be the first person to say it.’ So that’s cool and that’s love to have someone say something like that.”
VDC: More recently, you did a skit with Mike Tyson for FunnyOrDie.com what was like working with Mike in something that was clearly out of his element?
Brady: “I think that’s something that’s part of doing good comedy is sometimes you need to jump out of your element just like the ‘Training Day’ piece that we were just talking about. And it wasn’t even necessarily jumping out of my element, because that’s what I did anyway, because that’s what I did live and my live stuff is so much different than ‘Whose Line,’ or doing the talk show or the variety show owned by Disney.
“So when Mike jumps out of his element, it’s amazing. That’s where the comedy comes in because there’s this guy who for most of his life has been known as one of the most feared fighters on the planet, has gone through his personal ups and downs, has had documentaries made about him, had the infamous ear incident. And then you turn on the computer and you see Mike Tyson lip-syncing to Bobby Brown and doing the Running Man and having a great time and you immediately go, ‘Wait, is that the guy that I thought would snap and punch me if I say hi to him in the airport?’
“And I love that, I love being a part of that transformation with him. And it really started with ‘The Hangover,’ and now he’s doing ‘The Hangover 2’ he’s been on ‘Entourage,’ he’s been on ‘SNL.’
“Mike Tyson has comic chops. Just wait, something’s going to come out soon and it’s going to floor people.”
VDC: What’s coming up in the near future for you?
Brady: “You mean besides the show that I tape that airs five days a week and the record that I’m working on right now and the Vegas show and the African tour and my Australian tour? Nothing.”