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October 25, 2014

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Brad Garrett knows all about the comedy, but he’s serious about his charity … and poker

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Justin M. Bowen

Comedian Brad Garrett competes during Day 1C of the World Series of Poker main event at the Rio on Saturday, July 9, 2011. To accommodate all the entries, there are four “first days” for the main event.

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Brad Garrett

John Katsilometes sits down with comedian Brad Garrett at Garrett's new comedy club at the Tropicana.

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Brad Garrett at Ante Up for Africa at The Rio on July 2, 2010.

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Brad Garrett and his girlfriend, IsaBeall Quella, at the Nikki Beach and Club Nikki White Party Grand Opening at the Tropicana on May 26, 2011.

It is often difficult to take Brad Garrett seriously, a quality owed to his full-time job of making people laugh.

Garrett is superb at doing the funny, but that very characteristic can make addressing a serious issue somewhat of a challenge. Garrett’s public service TV announcements for Nathan Adelson Hospice, for example, are effective mostly because viewers are struck by the fact that he is not kidding around.

“There is the real person I am, and there is the stage persona,” Garrett says during a phone conversation this week. “There are things that obviously I am passionate about, that I take seriously. Because of my humor, I have been able to get things done in arenas where I probably would be able to if I wasn’t in comedy.

“I’m grateful for it.”

One of those things Garrett is so obviously passionate about is his Maximum Hope Foundation, which provides assistance to families with ill children, most of whom have just months to live. On Saturday, Garrett is hosting the All-In For Good celebrity poker tournament at Tropicana. The event is open to anyone who deals the $500 entry. The top prize is $5,000, second place wins $3,000 and third $2,000.

Registration starts at 11 a.m., and the “cards fly,” as they say, at 1 p.m.

Celebs confirmed to play are Ray Romano, Jason Alexander and Cheryl Hines. Poker pros Annie Duke and Jamie Gold are among that sport’s aces who have confirmed.

Garrett says the top celebrity entrant is Hines, a formidable competitor in the monthly house tournaments hosted alternately by Garrett and Romano in L.A. But all the celebrities are vigorously competitive once the cards are dealt.

“It’s worth the price of admission,” Garrett says, “just to see Ray Romano agonize over a $3 bet.”

Known for skewering any demographic when he’s in stand-up mode, Garrett turns compassionate when outlining the mission of his homegrown charity. Maximum Hope’s objective is to provide “simple daily necessities” for families where children are chronically ill.

“What’s really practical when you have a sick child is when your lights are going off and you are in foreclosure,” Garrett said. “These are the things we are talking about, simply daily assistance.”

Garrett and Kimberly Evans run the foundation. Evans is Garrett’s longtime friend, personal assistant and nanny (he has a son, Max, and daughter, Hope). His girlfriend, IsaBeall Quella, works on the Foundation Web site, and that’s the extent of the organization’s overhead.

“This is a grass-roots-effort thing that addresses what is really important to these people,” Garrett said. “We help 40 families per year, and when you faces these issues, what happens at the Comedy Club doesn’t seem nearly as important.”

Ah, the club. Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the Trop is 15 months old now, and Garrett still can’t confidently say that the place is consistently turning a profit.

“Things are going well, we’re plugging away, but we’re not breaking any records,” said Garrett, adeptly shifting from philanthropist to club operator. “We’re still keeping the doors open. We’re at the point where we’re about breaking even, to be honest with you. We’re paying the bills. We’re getting amazing reviews from the Yelp people, and on Facebook. We’re getting a ton of repeat business.”

The quality Garrett brings onstage is never in question. Some of the country’s best comics, many of them friends of Garrett’s for years, are showcased. Garrett himself is in town Sunday through Tuesday.

“We’re doing as well as the other comedy clubs, but everything is off in Vegas, for sure,” Garrett said. “I do see it turning around, though. I bring up the best guys and gals, and I will continue to do that. But, to be candid, we’re just getting by.”

Regardless, Garrett expresses no regrets in his funny-business venture at the Trop.

“I’m loving having a club, and I’m loving it for all the right reasons,” he says. “But at this point, it’s an expensive hobby. It’s like a bought a giant boat.”

Using that aquatic metaphor, Garrett is still riding the waves until it is smooth sailing for him, his charity and his Vegas comedy club.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow "Kats With the Dish" at twitter.com/KatsWithTheDish.

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