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July 31, 2014

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In return to standup at The Mirage, Tim Allen is still animated

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Tim Allen in Santa Clause 3.

Tim Allen is blessed with the innate ability to gauge when something will or won't work.

Except when "acting" in the immensely popular Disney/Pixar "Toy Story" movies.

He never feels it will work.

But it always works.

"You do these eight-hour sessions, and you don't want to be (screwing) around, because in there time is money," Allen said during recent phone interview in advance of his appearance tonight at Mirage (10 p.m., tickets are $59, $79, $99, fees not included). In the films, of course, the veteran comic actor portrays the action figure Buzz Lightyear.

It's a far leap from performing in front of a live audience, or even a live individual.

"They say, 'OK, Woody just walked up to you,' and give you Tom (Hanks') line. And Tom's not there. It's surreal to do this type of work, and I'm thinking, 'This is going to be strange.'

"But then, you watch the film, and your mouth is agape. I looks like I'm talking to him, but I never talked to him. Over time, I have been able to develop that character, even in this process, where you spend whole days just grunting and panting."

As he showed during this interview, Allen is a multifaceted and intuitive entertainer. A few other memorable moments:

• Even with his film success over the years, The Mirage gig is a return to his stand-up roots. "I decided to take a shot at it, take a year and see what it's like in bigger clubs and concert venues," Allen said. "I've gone to smallish rooms to huge rooms in localized casinos in Canada, seeing how it feels in different venues."

• He can "feel" the difference between an audience in a small club and a venue that seats a few thousand. "I like it red-hot. I love a smokin' audience, and you get that in a club — you get in there fast and quick and the audience response is immediate," he said. "In the 3,400-seat rooms, it's a totally different audience. It's measured, it takes a while to warm up, the response isn't as fast. It's a test for me."

• The stage structure is something Allen notices. "Most comedy clubs have very solid floors," he said. "They are very sharp. Acoustically, big rooms might be great for music, but not always great for stand-up. The sound isn't as tight, as close, and when you have been at this for as long as I've been (since 1975, specifically), that's something you notice."

• He's not a gambler. "I seems like I'm missing something, y'know?" he said. "You might as well give your money to someone at the door. When I'd come her in the old days, playing Rodney (Dangerfield's) room at the Trop, I'd eat in the kitchen with everybody else. I had craps dealers warning me, 'Gambling is like teaching a kid to drink liquor. Don't learn it. Don't learn to gamble if you don't like it. Don't force yourself into it, because you'll never enjoy it.'"

• He hopes to operate his own comedy club, similar to the operation Brad Garrett has launched at the Trop. "I'd just like a place to be, y'know?" Allen said. "Traveling was old when I was in my 20s and it's certainly old now. I'd like to have a place in Vegas. I've got some great ideas; I'm pretty good with design. I'm a computer geek who knows sound and lighting. I can make a room interesting visually and make it hot place to perform. We'll see, but that is a goal, yes."

• He was a good friend of Dangerfield's, whom he still reveres. "He was in the sweet spot of comedy, in that Norm Crosby-Don Rickles era, guys I love," Allen said. "I remember his room at the Trop was a freakin' hot room. Rodney was one of a kind. He'd walk around this bathrobe all the time, it'd fly open and we'd say, 'Rodney close that up!' 'What the hell for?'

"Once we bought him a velour walking suit. He looks at it and says, 'What the eff am I going to do with this?' That was Rodney. He was one of a kind."

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.

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