Brad Garrett sits in a VIP booth at his MGM Grand comedy club. The stage may be 20 feet away, close enough to imagine how imposing the 6-foot-8 comic will be when he launches into his act. The familiar “BG” logo ripples along the new black velvet curtain.
Garrett isn’t making any jokes at the moment. Looking like a grizzled Las Vegas bingo caller, he calls out numbers. âTry 20! Go to 25! Now 30! It’s about the percentage of light available to set the mood for the audience, how Garrett will set the stage for his new stage.
Obviously, Garrett is involved in every dang detail, from the position of the art around the room, to most of the paintings by his favorite artist, Steve Altman. Tables, chairs and booths are all his concepts. To borrow a line from the man he’s already opened for, Frank Sinatra, “We even picked the furniture.”
All of this activity is aimed at meeting the deadline to reopen Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club this weekend, with Garrett putting on a show with headliner Butch Bradley and starring Vegas veteran Trixx. Show times in the new venue are 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Garrett’s new comedic haunt can be found in prime real estate, at the MGM Grand casino level, along the row of restaurants and on the promenade leading to the Grand Garden Arena. The club took over the old China Tang space, across from Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak and Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House. Garrett stepped out of his underground space, where it operated for almost a decade after it opened in March 2012 (after two years of running what is now Laugh Factory at the Trop).
When China Tang closed in February 2020, an opportunity struck (or called) for Garrett.
âMGM called and they said, ‘Do you have Ray’s number? “Garrett jokes, referring to” Everybody Loves Raymond “sitcom star and good friend Ray Romano. “I said, ‘No, but I work in his gift shop, how can I help you? “”
By associating with the just vacant space. Garrett’s new room can accommodate around 210 people for comedy, around 40 less than the underground room. But it can pack around 85 ticket holders in the lobby lounge, where vintage Vegas performers George Bugatti, Laura Shaffer, Wes Winters, Vanessa LeGrand, Doug Taylor, and Trey Ordaz perform before the fun begins.
âIt’s completely that type of iconic piece, you know? Garrett said. âTo have this music room, I had to keep the seats low in the comedy room. This is exactly what I wanted to do.
Garrett has business challenges, of course. Less seating means a focus on selling the venue even when Garrett isn’t playing. Garrett plans to increase the numbers by appearing himself every month. âWe think we’ll have a lot more walk-in business just because of our location,â he says.
No ‘wake up’ here
There’s also the matter of Garrett’s gear. He claims, âI don’t have a comedy,â but comics are famous for gutting any cultural demographics. Insult comedy is a Vegas classic too, as Don Rickles ascended from Sahara’s Casbar Lounge destroying audiences in the 1960s. But comics today are aware that audiences may shrink from the flavor. Garrett’s stereotypical humor.
âI’m not very awake. I’m just going for fun, âsays Garrett. âBut I have to be honest. A lot of people, after COVID, have asked, “What are you going to do? I said, ‘This is what I’ve been doing all my life.’ Now we could be in a climate where people in society think it’s this or that, but it’s the act I’ve done my whole life. It’s my style.
Garrett also made some tough choices as a club operator. He demands that his crew be vaccinated against COVID. He himself is vaccinated (with the booster). And, incoming comics need to be vaxed, or they won’t be booked. This policy led to the removal of Garrett’s original New Years Eve headliner, anti-vaccination activist Rob Schneider. This, even as Garrett puts it, âI’m a huge fanâ of the Schneider act.
âYou have to have, and I just have to use that word, respect for other people,â Garrett said. âIt’s not just about me. I meet families. I meet people’s children. I am about thousands of people a week. Yes, I would feel bad if I did something dangerous to them. I am not preaching here. It’s just, how do we keep everyone safe? You must be vaxed.
Ring in the new club
Garrett is a married gentleman today. He and IsaBeall Quella were married on November 11 (as in 11-11, make a wish) in Santa Barbara. The couple have been together for 13 years and four other wedding dates and venues have been undermined.
âThis was the fifth attempt, the fires canceled us out in Malibu, and then the mudslides after the fire took out the next site,â Garrett said. âShe kept using excuses, like, ‘The Beatles broke up, I’m just not myself. It was a sort of red flag.
But he shoots straight when talking about his life, now, as a Vegas headliner and club operator.
âYou know, I’m not the best when it comes to relationships,â says Garrett. âBut, boy, I know that sounds cheesy, but my God, it’s just amazing. You just know when it’s right.
John Katsilometes column is published daily in section A. His âPodKats! Podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected] To follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @ JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.