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September 30, 2014

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REVIEW:

George Wallace: Good-natured humor defined

Wallace’s easygoing show is like a chat with a funny old friend

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Leila Navidi

Comedian George Wallace, who performs at the Flamingo, got his start as a writer for Redd Foxx. Thirty years ago, he was Jerry Seinfeld’s roommate in New York.

George Wallace

George Wallace performs his stand-up comedy show at the Flamingo Showroom inside the Flamingo Hotel on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2009. Launch slideshow »

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IF YOU GO

Who: Comedian George Wallace

When: 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (dark Sunday and Monday)

Where: Flamingo Showroom

Admission: $39.95-$69.95; 733-3333, www.flamingolasvegas.com

Running time: At least 90 minutes

Audience advisory: Good-natured teasing of audience members; visiting the restroom before the show is recommended

George Wallace is a prime exponent of the theories and techniques of viral marketing, even if he doesn’t know what that is. Every night, for instance, the comedian implores his audience to each tell 10 people that they liked his show.

Consider it done, George.

Calling himself “the new Mr. Las Vegas,” Wallace is inescapable around town: On my way to his 10 p.m. show at the Flamingo, I was stopped at a traffic light and found myself startled by a giant, grinning Wallace looking in my window from the truck idling next to me. And while trying to turn into the Flamingo parking lot, I had to wait my turn behind a fleet of five trucks emblazoned front to back with Wallace’s massive mug, each bearing the boast “Best 10 p.m. show!”

Along with being omnipresent, Wallace may also be eternal — he has been happily ensconced in the Flamingo Showroom since 2004, and it doesn’t look like he’s leaving anytime soon.

A youthful old-timer, Wallace, 56, began his career in comedy as a writer for “The Redd Foxx Show,” and he’s old-school in the best way. No props, no gimmicks, just a man and a microphone and a wandering, welcoming wit.

“How many of you have a job where you walk in and people start laughing?” Wallace asked the audience on a recent Wednesday night.

It’s hard to think of a more naturally likable entertainer. The burly, robust Wallace has a great, craggy face, his eyes crinkling and twinkling beneath his trademark backward Kangol cap when he laughs, which is frequently and genuinely. His cadence and delivery can put you in mind of a sly preacher, and his easygoing, unhurried act is like hanging out with a funny longtime friend. Or like a live nightly talk show: Wallace kept saying, “Tomorrow night, you come back. We gonna talk about a lot of crazy stuff ...”

Wallace was Jerry Seinfeld’s New York roommate 30 years ago, and you can just imagine the two of them puttering around the apartment, trying out “What’s the deal with ...?” and “I be thinkin’ ...” bits and catchphrases. Wallace’s brand of observational commentary lightly touches on the universal and the everyday, making stops for cooking shows, athletes on drugs (part one of a continuing series of “people who need their (butt) kicked”), the fun of laughing at old people as well as “kids today,” and how bleeping expensive Vegas is.

He roams between childhood and old age, and from silly (he kicked off the show by leading the crowd in “the pee-pee dance,” and later when a woman tried to discreetly get up and go, Wallace made a hilarious Big Deal about it) to freshly topical and serious. Well, semi-serious.

Wallace lovingly spent some time talking expressly to the many locals in the audience, sharing true tales about this crazy place we — and he — find ourselves living in.

A former presidential candidate, Wallace has a presidential podium onstage with him, but didn’t really get around to it, although he did reference President Barack Obama’s freshly delivered address to Congress, and bridged the red-blue gap, noting, “We’re just Americans up in here, all together, laughin’.”

Wallace was having such a good time in his playroom that he seemed to forget — several times — that he had been well on the way toward winding up the show. Something would nab his attention and he would start up all over again — challenging the audience in a rousing round of “yo’ mama” jokes.

This unexpected bonus set was just fine with the laid-back late-night crowd.

Like I said, Wallace doesn’t work with props, though quite a few audience members leave with branded giveaways, like George Wallace DVDs and clocks and T-shirts.

The latter of which, in turn, are a form of making satisfied fans into walking billboards for George Wallace.

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