In Las Vegas, Nevada, the Best Comedy Clubs

The Improv at Harrah’s, the Riviera Comedy Club, the Comedy Stop at the Trop (Tropicana), Second City at the Flamingo, and the LA Comedy Club at Planet Hollywood are the best comedy clubs in Las Vegas today. Let’s look at the fascinating history of Las Vegas comedy clubs.

Some of America’s best stand-up comedians have been born, trained, and launched their careers in Sin City comedy clubs since the mid-1950s. There were three levels of comic performances back then, and there are still three levels today. The resort showrooms were at the top, followed by the permanent comedian engagements and the comedy clubs. Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, George Burns, Martin and Lewis, Red Skelton, Milton Berle, and other well-known comedians of the early Vegas era routinely performed in resort showrooms. Lesser comedians or singers frequently preceded the major stars, working for 15 minutes until the major star arrived.

Similarly, high-priced Las Vegas Strip hotel resorts host current top-ranked comedians. Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, George Lopez, and others are among them, as are others who can draw enormous audiences and earn exorbitant prices. Most of the top comedians only come to Vegas for a few nights at a time, four or five times a year, and reach up to $1 million for their brief appearances. Their tickets range in price from $100 to whatever the market will handle.

Permanent artists, who play their routines five or six nights a week for several years at a major hotel showroom, are just below the permanent performers in the Las Vegas comic pecking order. Rita Rudner at Harrah’s, George Wallace at the Flamingo, Penn and Teller at the Rio, and Carrot Top at the Luxor are the current stand-up comedians in those long-term contracts. They make upwards of $500,000 a year, and unlike most people, they don’t have to work.

Comedians who are constantly on the road, doing brief performances and then moving on to the next town, can set up permanent family residences in Vegas. Tickets for their shows range from $50 to $100.

Comedians that perform in bare-bones Las Vegas comedy clubs are at the most basic level. Many of today’s best comedians began their careers in comedy clubs before moving to prominent film and television roles. In the 1960s and 1970s, they could earn $50 to $100 per night if they were lucky. Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Rosanne Barr, Robin Williams, George Lopez, and others were among those who made it famous during the period.

The situation is essentially the same today: great stars are paid well to play in the theatres of the major resorts. Every night, four or five stand-up comedians compete for the financial and celebrity status of Leno or Seinfeld at any of Sin City’s 40 or so comedy clubs, which are largely in hotel lounges, shops, and small showrooms. These shows have ticket prices ranging from $25 to $50.

A close family member performs for a week on stage at Harrah’s Improv and the Riviera Comedy Club several times a year. Weekly remuneration for such jobs ranges from $500 to $1,000, which isn’t terrible considering it includes a hotel room, meals, and free tickets for visiting relatives.