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October 2, 2014

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It’s a tall order, but Brad Garrett is up to the task with new club at Tropicana

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Tom Donoghue/www.donoghuephotography.com

Brad Garrett at Ante Up for Africa on July 2, 2009.

Brad Garrett is returning to the city where he first fell in love.

At age 19.

At the Stardust.

With a comely craps dealer.

"I truly loved her," Garrett said during a phone interview this morning, when he made the long-anticipated announcement that he'd be opening his own comedy club at Tropicana. "In those days, I could play anywhere. I looked like I was 31. But I loved her, and she left me for an eighth-grader."

Garrett, who stands 6-foot-8, had been making regular sojourns to Vegas even before then, since age 14, and has been mesmerized by the city. He first performed on the Strip in 1986, at Desert Inn, and his opening-act assignments included a stint with Frank Sinatra at Bally's. Most recently he's headlined at Mirage, a partnership that ended in a friendly sort of way when Garrett told MGM Mirage he was opening his namesake Brad Garrett's Comedy Club at the Trop.

"They couldn't have been more supportive, and I owe them a lot for what they've done for my career," he said. "It was (MGM Grand Entertainment Director) Richard Sturm who booked me with Sinatra, which was a huge moment in my career."

As he's already made public, Garrett opens the club — which he is four-walling, or leasing, from the hotel — June 28. Tickets are $39 and $59 (not including fees) and are on sale now at the Tropicana box office (702-739-2417). Shows run nightly. Times from Sundays through Thursdays are 8 p.m. Two shows are set for Fridays and Saturdays, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Garrett's space is on the hotel's mezzanine level, at the old Comedy Stop locale and also where Bobby Slayton made a similar effort to run an old-Vegas style club last year. The chief difference today is that Garrett is riding a wave of a $165 million hotel makeover.

"We want this to be an old-Vegas place, a throwback to the days when Shecky Greene and Rodney Dangerfield played here," said Garrett, who will serve as the club's first comic from June 28 through July 4. Garrett jokes that he first had the idea to open his own club when he once noticed Improve Comedy Club founder Budd Friedman sported a monocle.

"How cool is that? Yes, he wears it on a chain around his neck, but still — you've got enough money to afford another $8 for an extra lens and have a full pair of glasses," Garrett said. "It's just funny. I said, 'Hey Budd, open the wallet up. Let the bats fly out and pay for a full set of glasses.' "

At the new club, Garrett says that he will seat guests, at least during his opening run.

"After I had to leave the Mirage, I need the money," he said.

The first tag-team lineup will be Garrett and Rob Sherwood, who long has performed as his opening act and is a familiar figure on the Vegas comedy circuit. Other comics Garrett name-checked to appear at the club this year are Kevin Nealon, Dom Irrera, Bob Zany and Rocky LaPorte. Las Vegas pianist/singer Karl Cousin will play a significant role, performing for 10 minutes to start the night and introducing the comics. The walls will be adorned with oil paintings of such comic luminaries as George Carlin and Richard Pryor.

"I'm very much into the comedy-club scene, and everything about this place will be that," said Garrett, who will perform a dozen dates this year as part of a two-year contract with the Trop that specifies he performs only at the hotel during that time. "This is my passion. I could have stayed at Mirage, but it speaks to how strongly I feel about this that I'm taking this chance. I'll do a meet-and-greet after the shows. I prefer that to being hustled in and out of a theater and never being able to get intimate with the crowd. Not that they would like that anyway, but still."

Garrett says he expects the camaraderie among his friends in the industry to lead to "drop-in" surprise performances. Whether his famous TV brother, Ray Romano, will be one of those drop-ins is uncertain.

"Ray is a Mirage guy, and I respect that," Garrett said. "What he's doing is he's sending his brother over, his real brother, who looks a lot like him." As for a stop-over by Romano himself, Garrett only says, "You never know what will happen at midnight in Vegas."

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

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