With a large crowd gathered to celebrate under the marquee of his brand-new Las Vegas Strip comedy club at the Linq Promenade Friday night, Jimmy Kimmel joked about growing up in Vegas and hitting the Strip with friends to “torture tourists.”
Now, along with his partners at Caesars Entertainment and the star comedians at the two-story Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club, he’ll be entertaining them, just as he’s done for more than 15 years on his Emmy Award-winning late-night talk show “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
The club’s grand opening event generated plenty of buzz over the big fight weekend, thanks to an all-star roster of surprise performers that joined hilarious headliner Gina Brillon to christen the club’s stage; Kimmel’s sister Jill kicked things off before comedy stars Sarah Silverman, Pete Holmes and Chris Tucker each took a turn.
Before all those laughs, I grabbed a few minutes with Kimmel to talk about the club and why he loves Las Vegas so much.
How did creating this venue with Caesars strengthen your Vegas connections? Caesars Palace means a lot to me because my uncle Frank [Potenza], who was on my show for many years, worked here for 20 years. My bandleader Cleto [Escobedo] used to play here at Cleopatra’s Barge and we would come see him at least twice a week. His dad was a room service waiter at Caesars. It’s sort of like our family hotel in a lot of ways, so when Michael Gruber [chief new business officer] from Caesars called me and said, “Hey, would you be interested in opening a comedy club with us,” my agent didn’t even have to ask if I would be interested. He already knew I would be very interested.
You went to Clark High School and UNLV and grew up in Las Vegas during a golden era of Strip development and Runnin’ Rebels basketball. What are your favorite memories from those years? We would do something called carousing. That’s what we would do almost every night, not just on the weekends. It was me and Cleto and my friends Tommy and Jimmy, and all of these guys are here with me tonight, my junior high and high school friends. We’d go for 99-cent shrimp cocktails and we’d eat the two-dollar steak dinner at the Horseshoe almost every night. We’d go to the Westward Ho, which was right here. We had a lot of fun and of course the Runnin’ Rebels were my all-time favorite sports team. I wish I’d known that it wouldn’t last forever at that time because I would have treasured it even more than I did.
There are several great comedy clubs in Vegas these days and in fact Caesars just opened the Comedy Cellar at the Rio last year. What did you do to set your club apart from the competition? I don’t think of them as competition. I think it’s great that comedians have a number of venues to choose from and I think we certainly have enough people living here and coming to visit to support multiple comedy clubs. We built this from scratch. You’d be hard-pressed to find a comedy club that was built from scratch because most were clubs or bars that were converted. We set out to build a comedy club and make it perfect for the comics and for the audience. There are a lot of little things that people might not notice but I hope the comics notice because everything we did was with a lot of consultation from a lot of the best comics in the United States. As far as that goes, the place is a homerun, and I also wanted to make the food great. That’s very important to me.
How often will you be checking in? I’ll probably come once a month. I love coming out here. It’s just a matter of my wife understanding that I need to be here.