Spent and satisfied at the El Cortez

Utter exhaustion is a rewarding feeling sometimes. In the case of stand-up comedy, you really want it the day after a big show. You do your job right, you get an adrenaline high that keeps you up most of the night (and is certainly a reason some comics get into drugs and alcohol) and then you come down slowly.  

On Wednesday, I headlined my second comedy show for indie rock fest Neon Reverb. Promoters James Woodbridge and Thirry Harlin have always been supportive and continue to give me a broad canvas to work on.  (Almost literally, as Thirry worked to 5:30 a.m. on the day of the show, painting our background for the stage.)

As the El Cortez continues to try to capture a younger, hipper customer base, they were nice enough to give us their Fiesta Ballroom for the event. They also put up with all of my demands, which probably seemed silly to them. They were important, though, as we filmed the show for a potential DVD release.

“Can you guys move the stage two feet away from the wall?”  

“That will take two hours.”  

They did it.

We brought in our own one-man sound crew, a Mexican guy (I think) simply known as Major. Very few things are as frustrating in comedy as bad sound. Major nailed it. We brought in one of my favorite downtown DJs to set the mood, DJ Allen. He has the least creative DJ name I’ve ever heard, but he has knack for getting the vibe of the room just right. We brought in a full film crew. The ultra-talented Mike Thompson who co-directed feature film Thor at the Bus Stop proved once again to be a force in the Vegas film world as he helmed our seven-camera shoot, with five HD cams and two Flip cams.  

With a very limited budget, we maximized everything we were able to do, including mimicking a dolly by pushing a cameraman in a wheelchair.

The house was half-full.  For the first time out, that’s not bad. Would I have liked more?  Of course I would have. But they were into everything and it doesn’t matter if you are performing for 10 or 10,000. You have to bring it.  

My guys did. B.S. Williams, who is the best host in the city (go to Laughter Hours at the Foundation Room on Sundays) got the crowd hot, hyped and ready to party. He’s on stage, but you get the sense he could be in your living room.  He’s incredibly likeable and knows how to pace a show.

Mike Krasner, maybe Vegas’ most improved comic over the last year, rocked his set, covering everything from underage sluts at the mall to his mom wanting compliments for getting better looking with age. “If only I wasn’t your son!”  

My very close friend and a dude I always love having feature for me, Gabe Nolasco, was next.  Gabe’s style of self-deprecating Latino humor is a favorite around town. Of his Latino woman, “My girlfriend was angry at me the other day. Well, not really. That’s just the way I drew her eyebrows on.”

I was very happy with my set. In the end, all you can do is leave it all out there. As a performer of any type, you always know if you do that or not and the nights when you do are the ones where you get that high followed by the exhaustion.

It was a thrill to have El Cortez CEO and executive manager Kenny and Alexandra Epstein sitting in the second row and laughing as I made fun of their client base. “I thought of a new slogan for the hotel. The El Cortez: ‘Where you’ll never be carded.  But you might have to be toe-tagged.’ ”  The audience allowed me to play with them all night and the more interactive I can be, the better I think my shows are.

The first show I ever ran was a Mickie Finnz on Fremont Street.  Then I had Beauty Bar.  Now we’ve moved down the block to the Cortez.  There is a market for local comedy downtown.  And with the team we had last night, we just might find it.

Jason Harris is a local stand-up comedian.