The Donny Clay Experience at Planet Hollywood is the only show in Las Vegas where the audience shouts, "Fuck you!" at its star. Wait, wait — is Andrew "Dice" Clay still in town?
Well, it's the only show in which the crowd is encouraged to shout, "Fuck you!"
A one-man parody of corporate inspirational hooey, it's the love child of Jason Alexander, who plays Donny Clay, the world's fourth-best motivational speaker.
An interactive, energetic 80-minute massacre of corporate clichés and self-help stupidity, Donny Clay is staged in the Chi Showroom on the second level of the casino, the stage otherwise occupied by the upmarket titty-tease that is Peepshow. It's ironic and a bit genius that this spoofery of success-industry swindling is staged just a few hundred feet from the business suites and conference rooms where this kind of nonsense takes place in awful earnest.
If this is familiar territory for many in the audience (surely some among us had that "Hang in there, baby" cat poster in our cubicle at some time in our lives), it's really familiar to Alexander: Post-Seinfeld, he went on to star in an ABC sitcom called Bob Patterson, which revolved around "America's No. 3 Self Help Guru." The show — which debuted less than a month after September 11, 2001 — was canceled after 10 episodes.
"It was just not a good time and it did not go well," Alexander has said.
So Bob Patterson is Donny Clay, but Donny Clay is not George Costanza.
Although the characters may well be related — it seems Alexander is at his best when playing assholes with short fuses. The actor does reference Seinfeld in several gags, and the show starts off with a video testimonial to Clay's prowess as a life coach by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
In between, the act showcases for Alexander's surprisingly varied talents, which include Broadway-caliber singing and a gift for sight gags — the promised "partial nudity" is a howler.
Donny Clay starts out a bit shaky, with some dusty Vegas references that Louie Anderson would sniff at, and some of the songs are lazy and cheap — rhyming Dr. Laura with "a big whore-a" — but Alexander warms up and quickly owns the room.
It's really on when Alexander starts pulling up people from the audience. (Nobody gets hurt.)
Alexander's wicked way with a wide-eyed "volunteer" — ostensibly well-meaning but frosted with a very funny veneer of hostility — reminded me of Dame Edna, another obliviously overbearing character whose show is the audience. (Speaking of which, why doesn't someone book Dame Edna on the Strip?)
Some advice to would-be audience members: Wear nice shoes, in case you get called up onstage. It's the first thing we look at. And this is crucial: Go along with Alexander and don't try to out-funny him or get laughs on your own.
Alexander's limited engagement (which may be extended if it works out) happily continues the positive trend of high-quality one-person shows on the Strip, begun late last year with Chazz Palminteri, Lily Tomlin and, yes, Garth Brooks.
Alexander is adding a nice contemporary touch, personally tweeting his crowds @donnyclaytheway. "To my 2/12 Vegas crowd: keep on the Way to the YOU in you. And Mark ... Cement or concrete — it's all sand and water. Just keep inserting. DC"
And "I think my new Vegas show may be twice as good as Ka. That would make it kaka."
Don't rush for the door after Alexander takes his last bow as Donny Clay — you'll want to stay for the credits.