COMEDY: He’s Money, Baby

Vince Vaughn brings his brand of comedy to the Golden Nugget

Josh Bell

Vince Vaughn has had a pretty good summer. His film, Wedding Crashers, in which he co-stars with Owen Wilson, made more than $200 million at the box office and became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time.

He also had a small role in the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie action comedy, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, another of the summer's biggest moneymakers. Along with Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and brothers Luke and Owen Wilson, Vaughn is part of what the media has dubbed the "Frat Pack," who collectively are responsible for a large number of recent hit comedies, including Anchorman, Dodgeball, Meet the Fockers and more. They're generally considered the most powerful comedic actors in Hollywood.

Now Vaughn is taking his comedy on the road, as host of Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show, which stops this week at the Golden Nugget. Featuring stand-up comics Bret Ernst, John Caparulo, Ahmed Ahmed and Sebastian Manascalco, the show will hit 30 cities in 30 days and is being filmed for an upcoming documentary. Vaughn took a few minutes to talk about the tour and his increasingly successful movie career.

How did the comedy tour come about?

Well, originally I had a friend who had a bar, and I went down to kind of just give him a good night of business. I brought a bunch of these comics with me from the world-famous Comedy Store who are really funny down there and kind of hosted an event that night. And it went really well and was really well-received.

So then when I was shooting Wedding Crashers last year in Maryland, I hosted a benefit for AER, the Army Emergency Relief fund, which is an organization that, if someone unfortunately loses a family member overseas, the money goes to those families. I had [Jon] Favreau come out, and me and Favreau did some improvisation. We took suggestions from the audience and improvised some things. We also had some stand-up comics perform.

And then we did another one, a benefit here in Chicago recently for the same organization and they just go over really well. Audiences really respond.

These four comics that I have are four of the best young comics out there right now. It's a real treat for people to get a chance to see them. These are guys who have been on The Tonight Show, who have been on Comedy Central's Premium Blend. John Caparulo has a TV series being developed for him by Happy Madison, which is [Adam] Sandler's company, right now. Ahmed Ahmed—Richard Pryor gave the first ever Richard Pryor Award, that he gives personally, last year for the best young comedian; Ahmed won that. These are all great comedians.

For me, it's fun to kind of get out, perform live, emcee the show, interact with the audience and then have special guests get up on stage and either do sketches and stuff that we've written, or sort of improvise and take suggestions from the audience.

Who are some of your favorite stand-up comedians over the years?

I was always more of a fan of scenes and stuff than necessarily even stand-up. But Richard Pryor I always thought was a really funny comedian. He always made me laugh. Eddie Murphy, obviously growing up I thought he was very funny, watching him do stand-up. But I was more of a fan of, like, Bill Murray and [John] Belushi and those types of guys.

Is there any chance that Jon Favreau will show up here in Vegas, or at any of the tour's other stops?

He might show up in Vegas. It'd be very fitting for him to come to Vegas, given Swingers and "Vegas, baby, Vegas" have sort of become kind of an advertisement for that town. It's on all the billboards and stuff here in California and stuff still to this day. So it would be kind of fitting for Favreau to come.

In fact, it's the first time I've ever played Vegas live, although we did do Swingers there, and that was a big deal, and in Dodgeball I go to Vegas. We'll see if we can get Favreau out there. If not, we'll have someone out there that's fun.

Do you have any favorite Vegas memories?

I've always gone to Vegas. When I first moved out to California at 18—I'm 35 now—I used to drive to Vegas. That's sort of even in the [Swingers] screenplay—driving from California, you start excited and the drive's a little longer than you anticipate. I saw Sinatra play at Bally's before he passed away. I went to Bally's when I was young—I think I was under 21, actually—and went and saw him play there.

But I've always gone to Vegas and I've always liked it. The town's really taken off in the last 14, 15 years, especially with younger crowds. When I first started going there, there were always people there, but it seems like even more and more all the time.

Are you going to be involved in the Old School sequel that's been announced?

I haven't seen anything yet. I guess that there's some script that's come out or something. I haven't had a chance to read it. I haven't really given it much thought.

You're really known these days as a comedy guy, but earlier in your career you had more of a mix of comedic and dramatic roles. Will you be getting back to some more dramatic roles in the future?

Yeah, I definitely will go back and do dramatic stuff. I've always liked to mix it up. It's funny, because I was kind of playing bad guys for a while, and then I started doing Old School and this other stuff. But I started with comedy, I guess, with Swingers. I would definitely like to go and do a bunch of different stuff. I've been happy with the stuff lately. I think they've all been good movies and they've been fun to make.

You've also got this "Frat Pack" label. Are you ever concerned that being considered part of a group will overshadow your individual identity as an actor?

Not really. I sort of started—we made our own movie, Swingers, me and Favreau, which was a kind of outlaw, out-of-the-system movie, and then Made was a second movie that me and Jon did, and if I have any sort of partner, it's probably Favreau, who I started with. The other thing was just a kind of a label, I think, because there was a time where people were kind of crossing over stuff. But it was never on a conscious level to say, "Hey, let's all go do stuff."

But I think Will Ferrell's really funny. I really love working with Owen. I think he's really talented. To me, it was fun to work with those guys, but it's never been kind of a plan, saying, "Let's all go find movies to make together."

Are there any more collaborations with Jon Favreau in the works?

I just finished a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston called The Break-Up, and Favreau plays my best friend in that.

You've also got Thumbsucker coming out this fall, which is a smaller indie film. Do you make an effort to balance those smaller films with the big studio movies?

I'm not really consciously doing anything. I just sort of liked that screenplay, and I like the subject matter and I like the director. It was a part that was a little different. I like to do different stuff, sort of mix stuff up.

So from that point—like the character in Be Cool was very different from what I'm playing in Dodgeball, and this character's very different from both of them. So I like to do different stuff. I wasn't consciously saying, "An independent film versus a studio film." It was more just a part that I thought would be a good move.

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