Q&A: Jimmy Kimmel
He’s conquered radio and television, and now Jimmy Kimmel is ready to leave his mark on the Las Vegas comedy scene. This year’s opening of Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club on the Strip means more than another exciting entertainment offering planted along the Linq Promenade, where the two-story club and bar is just across from Brooklyn Bowl. It’s a homecoming of sorts for Kimmel, who was born in Brooklyn but moved with his family to Las Vegas when he was just 9 years old in the late 1970s. The host and executive producer of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! late-night talk institution has been spending more and more time in Vegas recently, including filming a week’s worth of shows from the Strip leading up to the club’s grand opening.
How did creating this venue at The Linq with Caesars Entertainment strengthen your Vegas connections?
Well, Caesars Palace means a lot to me because my uncle Frank (Potenza), who was on my show for many years, worked here for 20 years. My bandleader Cleto (Escobedo) used to play at Cleopatra’s Barge, and we would come see him at least twice a week. His dad was a room service waiter at Caesars. It’s sort of like our family hotel in a lot of ways, so when (Caesars chief new business officer) Michael Gruber called me and said, “Hey, would you be interested in opening a comedy club with us?” my agent didn’t even have to ask if I would be interested. He already knew I would be very interested.
You went to Clark High School and UNLV and really grew up in Las Vegas. What was that like?
We would do something called carousing. That’s what we would do almost every night, not just on the weekends. It was me and Cleto and my friends Tommy and Jimmy, my junior high and high school friends. We’d go for 99-cent shrimp cocktails and we’d eat the $2 steak dinner at the Horseshoe almost every night. We’d go to the Westward Ho, which was right here (on the Strip). We had a lot of fun.
You’re also a big UNLV basketball fan and the Caesars team presented you with a replica championship ring at the grand opening of the comedy club.
Of course the Runnin’ Rebels were my all-time favorite sports team. I wish I’d known (during the team’s championship era) that it wouldn’t last forever at that time because I would have treasured it even more than I did.
There are great comedy clubs in Vegas these days. How will you set your club apart from the competition?
I don’t think of them as competition. I think it’s great that comedians have a number of venues to choose from and I think we certainly have enough people living here and coming to visit to support multiple comedy clubs. We built this from scratch. You’d be hard-pressed to find a comedy club that was built from scratch because most were clubs or bars that were converted. We set out to build a comedy club and make it perfect for the comics and for the audience. There are a lot of little things that people might not notice, but I hope the comics notice because everything we did was with a lot of consultation from a lot of the best comics in the United States. As far as that goes, the place is a home run, and I also wanted to make the food great. That’s very important to me.
How often will you be checking in?
I’ll probably come once a month. I love coming out here. It’s just a matter of my wife understanding that I need to be here.