Vegas spins out of our control…

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on September 23rd, 2010

…or does it?

We fled the Alexis Park last night. (Yes, we know… an entire day– Tuesday– is missing. We’ll recover it and post on it… eventually.) We wanted to check out Brad Garrett‘s Comedy Club, which occupies the room that usta be the Comedy Stop. Garrett opened the club this past summer. A few weeks ago, former ELR star Ray Romano “dropped in,” much to the delight of the unsuspecting crowds. It’s a beautiful Vegas comedy showroom! FOS Kathleen Dunbar was there, too. (We spent a pleasant afternoon as guests of Dunbar, along with Richie Minervini– who’s at the Comedy Club at the Riv– and Wisconsin-based WSOC combatant William Krolowitz.)

Krolowitz did a five-minute guest set at Garrett’s club and we were joined at the back of the room by Wendell Duppert and Jason Dudey, WSOCers who were determined to survey the Vegas comedy scene while in town to compete. There’s a lot of that going on– many of the 100+ comedians in Vegas for the WSOC are clumping together and fanning out, seeing the sights, visiting their colleagues (who have the great fortune of actually working Vegas) and maybe even talking their way onto the many stages in the town.

We ended up eating at Baja Fresh at the Excalibur while our dining companion Brad Reeder (proprietor of Goodnights in Raleigh) made arrangements, via txt, to hang out with FOS Charlie Viracola (who’s in town opening for Carrot Top) and Rob Sherwood (who often opens for Carrot Top) and Carrot Top. Before too long, we were in the secret backstage lair/bar/lounge of “The Top,” drinking Jack Daniels (straight, no ice) and having a generally swell time! (See illustration above.) That Carrot Top (real name Scott Thompson) is a funny fellow and a genuinely swell guy!

We’re going back tonight to see the show– the entire Carrot Top spectacle– from a seat in the Atrium Showroom. Stay tuned.

That’s A.J. Finney and J. Chris Newberg, at the Meet and Greet in the ballroom at the Alexis Park Thursday afternoon.  Newberg is in town to perform at the Playboy Comedy Club at the Palms Casino.   He stopped by to say hello!

Meanwhile, we climb out of bed this morning and head over to the Hard Rock for the Huevos Rancheros (it’s a ritual now) but not before checking our email. We’re not paying the exorbitant fees that the Alexis Park is charging… we’re tethering our Droid to the laptop and using PDANet to connect to the WWW via the 3G network! Ha! What a revelation! We exhort our comedy brothers and sisters to investigate a smartphone and download the (free) software and throw off the shackles of the hotel chains who are mired in the 20th century and charging their captives for use of the wireless internet! (And, in another tech note, WSOC contestant Ray Wagner– who arrived this afternoon, in plenty of time for his slot in tomorrow night’s early show– said that, on his layover at PHL, there was plenty of free WiFi available, courtesy of AT&T. We apologize to the folks who run PHL… we had ranted about their reluctance to provide travelers with free access to the internet!)

A no-show at the Meet and Greet– Kevin Kearney, not the Male Half.  (We didn’t meet or greet… we merely milled about and had some quality contact with some fans of the magazine.  Always a thrill to meet the readers!!!)  We stole Kearney’s name plate.

A good number of the WSOC participants assembled in the lobby of the Alexis Park to jockey for position for the Meet and Greet– another of the very practical features of this festival– which is a chance for these feature acts to get in the face (in a good way) of the dozen or so bookers/club owners who are here.  A large ballroom is lined with tables, behind which are seated the influential aforementioned bookers.  A conga line of comedians queues up and takes turns… meeting and greeting.  It’s basically a job fair for comedians.  Civilians do this sort of thing all the time.  It’s another reason why we like this whole WSOC thing.  It’s so… practical!

That’s either Kenney Josephs (Thursday night, early show) and Ray Wagner (Friday night, early show) at the Meet and Greet… or it’s the worst pre-heavyweight boxing championship weigh-in photograph ever taken!
Long lines to chat with Bobby Jewell– proprietor of Sidesplitters in Tampa– as he strikes a pose reminiscent of a toddler at a Sears Portrait Center.

A lot more of the booker/owner types descended on the Alexis Park today (and, we suppose, last night). It made for a more spirited Meet and Greet, but it’ll probably make for a more tense contest. We suspect they’ll all be in the house when the contest resumes. They’re here, after all, because they’ve committed a week or two (or three) at their club (or clubs) to the grand prize pot for the winner.

That’s Murv Seymour!  He’s a Wild Card contestant who is in the running for the big prize.  He’ll be slugging it out for a slot in the finals on the early show Saturday.  He’s pictured with The Female Half in the lobby of the Alexis Park, just before the Meet and Greet… or, as we like to call it, The Running of the Bull.

We neither greeted nor meeted. Nor did we stand in any lines. We stood in approximately the center of the ballroom and occasionally buttonholed a comedian to shoot the breeze, chew the fat… talk idly in an informal way! We didn’t dare take away any valuable M & G time from the hopefuls. (After all, we’ve met or worked for or generally annoyed nearly all the owners/bookers over the past 25 years or so. And there’ll plenty of opportunity to engage them in pleasant conversation over the next 72 hours or so!)

There are two more shows tonight, two more tomorrow night. Then, the winners from all these contests will slug it out for those precious three spots on the last Saturday night show. They’ll each get to do 25 minutes in that final show! So far, Matt Markman, Brandt Tobler, Tommy Thompson and Chris Williamson have secured spots in that important semifinal.

Landry is on the left.  Rahn Hortman is on the right.  They take time out from lining up for a meet and greet to point fingers at each other!
Whilst strolling through the Alexis Park courtyard, we encountered these gentlemen.  From left to right, they are Reginald Ferguson, Kelechi Jaavaid and Frank Genzano.  (Fred Sanford struggles mightily to insinuate himself into the photo!)  We struck up a conversation about the cats.  There are dozens of cats inhabiting the courtyard here.  They come out at night.  They keep the property mouse-free.  They provide a conversation starter!
That’s Rob O’Reilly (Last Comic Standing) and Dobie Maxwell, on Tuesday night, at the Alexis Park.  (Rob left his comedy notebook behind… we grabbed it and phoned him up and told him it was down at the front desk!  We also gave him pizza!  The karma juggernaut rolls on!)  Lesson learned:  The first thing a smart comic does is put, on the front page of his comedy notebook: “If found, please return to (insert name here) or call (insert phone number here)!”