The stand-up comedy landscapes of Las Vegas and New York City are worlds apart. The Strip boasts big names like Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Bill Maher filling up big rooms, but NYC has superstars popping up in smaller clubs and cutting-edge comics building new careers onstage.
One of Manhattan’s most legendary clubs is planning to bring all kinds of New York comedy flavor to Las Vegas next month when the Comedy Cellar opens at the Rio. After 36 years, the Cellar is expanding to the West Coast for the first time, something owner Noam Dworman has been working on for about three years. “The time just wasn’t right with any of the casinos before, then all of a sudden Caesars changed their minds,” he says.
That decision was likely influenced by the current stand-up comedy boom; tons of popular shows and specials on Netflix and other streaming channels are providing more access than ever before and Dworman believes comedy is now on equal footing with music in terms of awareness and drawing power. “There are comedians selling out Madison Square Garden quite often and that’s something that wouldn’t have happened years ago. It was always reserved for only the biggest musical acts.”
The Cellar’s drawing power has always been about putting on the best shows, he says.
“We don’t do any advertising whatsoever, it’s always been word of mouth, and we [attract] a lot of New Yorkers and a lot of tourists,” says Dworman, who’s hoping his Strip-adjacent casino location will pull in Las Vegas locals, too. “Even when we were one of the slower clubs in the city, which we have been at certain times in our existence, having the best shows is what put us on top in the long term.”
The Cellar’s showcase format has hosted some of the most beloved comics in the game in its history—many before they broke big—including Dave Chappelle, Ray Romano, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer and Chris Rock. The Vegas version expects to have superstars stop by for spontaneous sets, something that should maintain its original New York vibes and differentiate it from other Vegas comedy clubs.
“The room at the Rio is coming out fantastic, it looks just like the Cellar in New York. And the lineups we have booked for the first two months are indistinguishable from what we have in the city,” Dworman says. “It’s all coming together. [Vegas clubs] are drawing from a group of comics that are out on the road and I don’t really know that world. Our intention at the Cellar is to not book any comics like that. We are flying out our regular comedians and bringing in many of the comedians we know who have moved to Los Angeles.”
The Comedy Cellar at the Rio opens on April 5 and tickets for that weekend’s shows — featuring Mo Amer, Kyle Dunnigan, Jessica Kirson and Nathan McInstosh — are on sale now. For more information, visit riolasvegas.com.