Photo by Andrew James
It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, two days after Christmas, and Brad Garrett strides into Studio 54 at the MGM Grand for a photo shoot and immediately begins working the room. Doesn’t matter that the room is mostly vacant. Garrett’s comedy faucet never shuts off. And right now, the tall funnyman best known as Robbie Barone—the awe-shucks, down-on-his-luck big brother on Everybody Loves Raymond—has a story to share about Pamela Anderson.
“So I’m doing Doyle Brunson’s birthday about five years ago at an MGM property,” he tells a reporter and a couple of onlookers. “It’s a roast, and she walks in late, drunk, with her posse, and I go, ‘Ladies and gentleman, Pamela Anderson! She’s taken more loads than a Maytag!’ I thought it was pretty good … and accurate. But she turned around and walked out.”
Vintage Brad Garrett: hysterical, filthy, ruthless—the antithesis of his television character, and the kind of comedy he’s been delivering since he first worked Vegas in 1986, opening for a variety of headliners, including Frank Sinatra.
Garrett is back in the headlines for a simple reason: He’s doubling down on the Las Vegas comedy scene, having relocated Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club from the Tropicana—after an 18-month run—to the MGM.
Garrett, whose new 280-seat room is scheduled to open March 29 with a VIP event headlined by his former co-star, Ray Romano, says the move across the street is a no-brainer. Not only will he have greater exposure being under the MGM Resorts International umbrella, but he’ll be able to borrow big-name comics from the company’s sister properties for surprise appearances, something he was unable to do at the Trop.
“I thought with the refurbishing and the rebuilding of the Trop and my love for old Vegas that it would work. But in this day and age, to really be competitive in Vegas, you can’t be in a hotel that’s a one-off,” he says. “This is a dream move. [MGM executives] saw my club at the Trop, they saw how I ran it, saw my management team, which will follow me over here, saw how everyone was seated individually and how everyone was checked on throughout the show.” Garrett, whose relationship with the MGM goes back to 1993, when he helped open the Hollywood Theatre, insists that same old-school Vegas hospitality and charm will remain a fixture in his new room, which he describes as reminiscent of “an old ’30s, ’40s warehouse in New York that was built into a club.”
That vintage vibe is what greatly appealed to Richard Sturm, the president of entertainment and sports for MGM Resorts who gave Garrett one of his first opening-act jobs at Bally’s in 1996. “I just like the way it felt,” Sturm says of Garrett’s venue at the Trop. “It felt like a showroom that was run like the ones [from] years ago, where you had a maître d’ who would seat you. And the design that we have downstairs is just perfect for this kind of venue. It just suits comedy, and we’re all very excited about it. We feel that it’s going to do very, very well.”
As for his personal involvement, Garrett during the first year is committed to a weeklong engagement once a month (which is twice as frequently as he performed at the Tropicana), and when he is in town, he plans on also pulling double duty as the emcee.
Not that the 51-year-old expects his own appearances to drive ticket sales. “Let’s be honest: We know the bloom is off the rose. We know the career is dropping like pants at the Kennedy compound.”
He pauses. “That’s true about Pamela Anderson, by the way.”