Stand-up comedy is surging in Las Vegas. Two hot new rooms have opened in the past 16 months—the Comedy Cellar at the Rio and Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club on the Linq Promenade—and at a larger Strip venue, Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas, has added a fresh slate of comedians to its roster of headliners. There, Chris Tucker, Jim Gaffigan, Sebastian Maniscalco, Ali Wong and Nate Bargatze are playing the same room as Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and John Fogerty.
The laughter can be heard beyond the Strip, too. Downtown Grand recently opened the Spare Room with stand-ups onstage five nights a week. And the Plaza will launch comedy in its classic casino showroom on September 12 through a partnership with the Comedy Works, which also operates a club in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Take a closer look at the names booked at the Plaza and you’ll realize this is serious comedy. Familiar comics Jim Florentine and Nick Di Paolo kick things off in September before MTV prankster Tom Green—a regular at Bally’s and Harrah’s on the Strip in recent years—takes the stage October 10-12.
October 24-26 finds former Venetian and Treasure Island headliner Lisa Lampanelli bringing her no-holds-barred style to the Plaza, and Scream actor and comedian Jamie Kennedy (November 14-16) and Saturday Night Live favorite Tim Meadows (January 9-11) round out the Comedy Works’ initial Vegas lineup, which appears primed to have a major impact on the Downtown entertainment scene.
“There are plenty of options if you want to see comedy around the city, but focusing on Downtown, there’s still a stigma that you’ll find great value but maybe the entertainment is not up to par with the Strip,” says Bronson Olimpieri, who’s been working on Plaza marketing initiatives for more than three years and recently stepped into the role of vice president of creative and branding for the property. “We’ll have weekends with a lineup of touring comedians, but for the most part, it will be bigger names that have played the Strip that we’re bringing Downtown for a great price point. That’s going to be the game-changer for us.”
The Comedy Works at the Plaza will primarily offer performances Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 9 p.m. and Saturdays at 8 and 10 p.m., with ticket prices starting at $20.
The secret weapon is the showroom itself, a rare vintage venue in today’s Vegas landscape. Olimpieri notes that the Plaza’s recent renovations have been all about adding modern amenities without compromising the Main Street destination’s old-school feel.
“That [feeling] is the main reason I took the gig. I spent over 10 years [working] on the Strip, and hanging out Downtown felt like a real city and reminded me of when I was in West Hollywood,” he says. “It just has great bones and that iconic look.”
Comedy isn’t entirely new to the room. Louie Anderson, Doug Stanhope and a few others have performed there in recent years. But the connection with the Comedy Works seems to have come at the right time for the Plaza.