Wayne Brady was first introduced to TV audiences on the improvisational comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? for which he won an Emmy. With stints hosting his own gig, The Wayne Brady Show, and a part in the Broadway revival of Chicago, Brady, 38, has proven himself more than just an improv comedian. He grew up in Florida, where he got his start performing in high school productions, and by 17 knew the stage was his calling. He performed in improv and sketch-comedy groups in Florida and California before finding himself opposite Drew Carey on Whose Line Is It Anyway? The show helped jumpstart Brady’s career and established the nice-guy image Brady would later poke fun at in a cameo on Chappelle’s Show. Brady’s stage show Making It Up, debuted at the Venetian in April 2007 and is back after a hiatus at the end of 2009.
You recently got a wax figure at Madam Tussauds here in Las Vegas. Does it feel cool or a bit creepy?
If it was creepy I wouldn’t do it. I think it’s one of the ultimate pats on the back, “Hey you’ve made it,” where folks know who you are. If you got a wax figure and no one cared who you were, it would kind of defeat the purpose of having a wax figure. Then it’s a mannequin. They sent me the picture, and I have to say it’s pretty cool to see yourself like that. Of course, you look at it and you go, “Does it look exactly like me?,” and I think it looks incredibly close. If you had to look at it, you definitely do need to take a second look and that’s pretty cool.
What do you like about performing in Las Vegas?
That it’s Vegas; it’s old-school. It’s definitely the mark of a true performer to be on a Vegas stage and to pack a house five nights a week just based on your name alone. I’m a big fan of the Rat Pack and of Sammy Davis Jr., so to me playing Vegas has that old-school connotation.
Are there drawbacks?
It’s kind of a crapshoot sometimes where the audiences are either true fans or they’re drunk people that have been comped or just stumble into your show. When your show is known to have comedy in it, there’s always the person that wants to come in and test you as opposed to a theatrical audience. I’m used to playing theaters as well when I tour, which is more of a theatrical setting and people that come to see theater come to see theater, not show up in their bathrobes and house slippers from their rooms because they just don’t know how to act. That’s also part of the fun because it’s like, OK, it’s Vegas and whatever happens happens.
What draws you to improv?
It isn’t like it’s something I started doing yesterday. I do it because I’ve been doing it since I was 17, and it’s not a destination. I’m an actor … occasionally it’s fun to step onstage and be like, “Let’s do it.” Just like it’s fun to do a sitcom and then to have a script and be able to sort of originate a character, or to turn around and do a movie or turn around and do a record. What I like about improv is you don’t know what’s coming next; the audience doesn’t know what’s coming next, so that’s definitely a draw.
Who are your influences?
I think as an actor, as a performer, I really love people like Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and John Leguizamo, and actors who are able to give you a little something different, who are able to step onstage and be able to kill it, and then guys like Sammy Davis Jr., the old-school influences, who do everything onstage and leave an audience just mesmerized.
What’s your funniest Vegas story?
A lot of them are probably unprintable because they’re just horribly dirty and not even on my end. Sometimes when people come to Vegas they lose their mind and choose to leave ethics at home. I think it has to be when I came to my dressing room and somehow someone had gotten back there, a fan, and they were waiting in the dressing room and they said, “Hey Wayne, when do we start the show?” It was my favorite/scariest moment, but I look at stuff like that and the only thing you can say to it is “only in Vegas.” Only here does a drunk man with a yard-long drink end up in your dressing room going, “Hey, Wayne, when are we going to go?”
If you could give Las Vegas a slogan what would it be?
“Who needs pants?”