Q&A: George Wallace
After he finished a long, successful run at the Flamingo in 2014, George Wallace needed a bit of a break from Las Vegas. But the comedian maintained his home here and found the right fit for a comeback at the Westgate Cabaret. Wallace has been busy since he left the Strip, touring the country’s stand-up stages and filming plenty of movies and TV shows. He’s one of the city’s all-time favorite funnymen, and he’s happy to be back in a storied casino showroom.
The Westgate has added so many entertainment options in a short period of time—Barry Manilow, magician Jen Kramer and yourself. What is it you love about performing there?
I like all the changes they’ve made. I had (other offers) but this one I could not refuse because I didn’t want to do what I did before, where I have to (manage) the show. They put me on salary, so I said, “Let’s do it. Let’s have some fun.”
Why did you decide to take some time away from performing in Las Vegas?
Me and my best friend of 42 years, and that’s Jerry (Seinfeld), we tend to manage each other. He helped me (realize) that I needed to do something new. I had been in Las Vegas so long, I had lost a whole generation of audiences, so I went to work to do movies and things to get to know the younger crowd. I just finished a 35-city tour. I did a voice on Bob’s Burgers. I finished a movie with Morgan Freeman and another one with Chevy Chase and Richard Dreyfuss. I quit Vegas to do these things. My goal in life when I started out in ’76 and ’77 was to work in Las Vegas. I remember a comedian that was making $400,000 a year but I always thought it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you enjoy life while you’re living. That’s good enough for me. I don’t have to make all the money. And I can go pee. They can’t go pee. They have paparazzi all over. I’m in a good place and I make enough.
I’m sure you have loads of new material to work into your new show. You’ve always kept it pretty clean onstage. Are you going to change that?
I can out-cuss all of y’all, but the reason I don’t is we grew up in an era when the biggest stages for comedy were on programs like The Tonight Show and all those TV shows of the ’80s. You had to keep everything clean for TV. I’m glad Def Comedy Jam came along and that these kids express themselves differently now. The fact is it’s harder to be clean and be very funny. I prefer to do it with substance.
How different is performing in Vegas? Is that old stigma gone about Vegas comedy audiences being comped, so they’re less interested in the show?
In a way, yes. Some people still don’t know who you are because they get tickets. What’s good about Vegas is if you can make them laugh, you’re going to be good all over, because the audience in Vegas is from all over the world. You can specialize. And I’ve been all over the world. I can relate to you whether you’re from Dubai or Manila or Singapore or Shanghai. No matter where you’re from, I was probably there yesterday.
You’ve seen Vegas change a lot over the years.
It sure has. People in Las Vegas are paying a thousand dollars to see guys sliding all over on some ice! Vegas is crazy. They’re building the Raiders’ stadium with no new streets around it, but you’ve got all these new, winding streets downtown. Who the (expletive) needs to get downtown that fast? But Vegas is building again and it’s gonna be great. Property values are going up. I bought my condo in Las Vegas in ’09 back when everything was 40 percent off and now everything is back up.