The Comedy Stop... Moving On,
The Comedy Stop, at the Tropicana Hotel, has been in Las Vegas for more than 18 years. Throughout those years, some of the greatest stand-up comics in the world had the privilege of working on its stage. Many of today's headliners, television comedians and movie stars got their first break working on a Comedy Stop stage.
Today the Comedy Stop is gone from the Tropicana. It closed last Sunday at the request of the new Tropicana management group. But, it will re-surface very soon at a new venue, to be announced in a few weeks.
And, it was successful in Las Vegas because of one man, Bob Kephart. Bob not only owned the Comedy Stop here in our little village, but had opened the original club in the Atlantic City Tropicana Hotel in 1983, which is now called, The Comedy Stop Café & Cabaret...
This writer met Kephart in 1990, when he was preparing to open the Comedy Stop in Las Vegas. He had already struck a deal with the owners of the Tropicana and was looking for a publicist. After a dinner meeting, I got the job.
Kephart is and will always be an innovator. His Las Vegas Club was the first to come up with "Thank God it's Thursday," where locals could purchase two tickets for the price of one. He was the first club to offer a non-smoking show at 8 p.m. and a smoking show at 10 p.m. One of the least publicized things that Bob did was turn over the local club to numerous charities for fund raising.
The first event he pulled off was the Ronald McDonald House fundraiser for the local Junior League of Las Vegas. If memory is correct, it was the first such organized event for that particular charity. Another time, Kephart held a very special afternoon gathering for Foster Parents and their "charges." There was plenty of balloons, ice cream and cake, soda pop, and the 300 seat showroom was full of gleaming smiles and laughter. Every child left with a gift.
The Comedy Stop's perpetual success is as a direct result of Kephart's deep commitment to continually finding the top comedic talent in the country. Bob has always been known as a visionary, dating from when he first opened the doors to the Comedy Stop in Atlantic City. He opened the club in the dead of winter, knowing that Atlantic City's other entertainment venues would be dark. Many thought he was nuts for not waiting until summer, when the crowds would be huge. The Comedy Stop was sold out that first weekend.
Bob Kephart is credited with nurturing_and in some cases actually discovering_some of the most famous comedians working today. Some of those include: Tim Allen, Rosie O'Donnell, Drew Carey, Brett Butler, Lewis Black, Richard Jeni and Vinnie Favorito. Perhaps his biggest finds was when he hosted a talent search and discovered Ray Romano, who went on to become one of comedy's most successful sitcom stars. In his quest to discover new talent, Kephart instituted an annual talent contest at the Las Vegas club, which ran for a number of years. The eventual winner was assured of at least one week's work at The Comedy Stop Las Vegas.
One reason Kephart is able to maintain a steady stream of top notch stand-up comics is that he pays them well. He allows them to take side jobs for private parties when they are appearing at his clubs. An example: I was helping out with publicity at the old Sands Hotel, when the Vice President of Sales (a personal friend) asked me if I could get a celebrity to help him host a VIP party. At the time, Ray Romano was booked to be at the Comedy Stop, so I asked Kephart if it would be okay to call Ray, to see if he would be interested. Romano got a hefty paycheck for about an hours work that afternoon.
Another side of Kephart that few know about: I was instrumental in getting him interested in auto racing. I was at the time racing a Dodge Stealth in the high speed open road races held in Ely, NV. This was a race staged twice a year by the former two-time Indy 500 Champion, Rodger Ward. Bob went out and purchased a new Stealth, drove it out to Las Vegas, where I had it prepared for racing_roll bars, five point belt system and other safety requirements. He took some private driving lessons, then entered a local road course event (at which I was one of the instructors), and entered the Ely race, with his brother-in-law as navigator. They had a ball and finished the race in a respectable position. The next year, he nailed his class with a first place finish. See, for Bob Kephart finishing first is what it's all about!
This writer looks forward to The Comedy Stop and its new venue becoming bigger and better than ever_if that is at all possible. When I find out where they are going, you'll be the first to know.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY...
Vince Falcone, the conductor to the stars, will be working with an up-and-coming singer from back east. Michael Martocci will be performing in The Orleans showroom this weekend, beginning tonight and running through Sunday. Falcone has been working with the young man at various venues, and reports he has "great chops." Falcone will be using many of Frank Sinatra's original charts (Martocci is not an impersonator) and will have a full orchestra. Oh, yeah, they are opening for the great Don Rickles...
Gordie Brown, who opened at the Golden Nugget earlier this month, will hold his VIP / Media Grand Opening, Friday, March 27, with red carpet arrivals beginning at 5:30 p.m...
Steve Lawrence has issued his new album, "The Steve Lawrence Show," featuring some great songs from the television show that ran for 13 weeks in 1965. Check it out at www.steveandeydie.com...
Rodney Atkins and Travis Tritt, two of country music's biggest stars, will be performing Friday, April 3, at 8 p.m. in the Henderson Pavilion, with tickets priced from $15 to $50 plus fees...