Jamie Masada is trying to bring an identity to the Tropicana, one chortle at a time.
Masada is the owner of the Laugh Factory franchise, which boasts comedy clubs in Hollywood; Long Beach, Calif.; and Chicago. Last week, it was announced that he is opening shop in the Tropicana mezzanine space most recently occupied by Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, as Garrett has moved to MGM Grand and is set for a March 30 opening.
“What we want to do is bring an identity to the Tropicana, where people will know it is a place you can find great comedians,” Masada said during a recent phone conversation. “Every one of the hotels in Las Vegas has an identity. Tropicana is a beautiful hotel with a beautiful pool, and we’re bringing in a brand that is very strong in the comedy world.”
Masada said the venue will start rolling out comedy showcases during a soft-opening period at the beginning of April.
“This is not a situation where we will try to be successful for a long time, not make money for a few months and walk away,” he said. “We will bring in some very funny people.”
The lineups are not yet set, but the Laugh Factory uses the model of multiple comics introduced by a comedian host. The club has showcased a deep and impressive list of comedians over the years, ranging from Roseanne to Chris Rock to Richard Lewis. David Letterman and Jay Leno appeared at the club long before either hosted talk shows on network TV.
“This is the place,” Masada said, “that Michael Richards appeared.”
That reference is to Richards’ regretful, racially charged improv routine that was caught on a handheld camera in 2006.
Masada has plans beyond the club. The Laugh Factory’s “Supreme Court of Comedy,” the DirectTV courtroom-based comedy show, is to be taped at the Trop. The show is hosted by Dom Irrera, who hears real-life complaints and dishes out rulings as fellow comedians act as “court counselors.” Masada said that show is due to start taping in September, either from the club itself or from Tropicana Theater.
There has been chatter that a comedy showcase bearing Mike Tyson’s name will be rolled out at the club, too, depending on the viability of Tyson’s “Undisputed Truth” live show at MGM Grand, which runs from April 13-18 at Hollywood Theatre. “Mike Tyson’s Knockout Comedy” is a title being kicked around.
“We like the idea of Mike Tyson as a fish-out-of-water host,” Masada said. “He could work well as a co-host. We want to do it, yes, because Mike is so unpredictable.”
The grandiose plans for the club brand also include a sort of comedy Wall of Fame at the Trop, which for years was home to the Comedy Stop comedy club and was Rodney Dangerfield’s Las Vegas laugh haunt for years. Masada envisions such names as Dangerfield and Jerry Lewis to be prominently displayed on the walkway leading into the club.
Masada is attempting to succeed where top comic talent — including Garrett and, before him, Bobby Slayton — have fallen short. Again, he points to the equity of the Laugh Factory brand.
“It is so strong,” he said. “You come to Hollywood, and we are always sold out. We sent people to the Comedy Store, which is five blocks away.”
Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard will be brimming with comics beginning in April. Masada says of Garrett, who long ago performed at the Laugh Factory, “I love Brad. I think he’s wonderful.” Garrett returns the kind words, saying, “Jamie is one of the really good guys in this business. He’s helped a lot of comics in a lot of ways. He is one who really does give back.”
There seems to be enough laughter to go around in Masada’s effort to gain footing at the Trop. Check back in the fall to see if this business partnership is, indeed, a laughing matter.