Crapshoot Comedy Festival cofounder Paul Chamberlain talks about his audacious Downtown event
Three nights, two-dozen comedians, and several venues all within walking distance of each other on East Fremont. That’s the first Crapshoot Comedy Festival, May 18-20 and headlined by Dave Attell, Tig Notaro (pictured right), Bert Kreischer, and more. Paul Chamberlain and his wife, Kacky, who’d previously put on comedy festivals and events in Maui, are behind it. Though they moved here from Maui last year, they’re not strangers — they lived here 2008-2013. A former tech-industry marketer and entertainment journalist, Paul Chamberlain partnered with Zappos, the El Cortez, and the city to get this off the ground. We picked his brain.
On having the festival Downtown
I always had my eye on Downtown when we were here. We came back last year, and I saw how much things had changed, and I said, “It’s time.” So we leveraged our success from Maui and notified the industry: “Hey, we’re back, and we’re gonna do it in Vegas — but real Vegas, historical Vegas.”
On the appeal of comedy
I have always been in love with stand-up comedy. I regard it as the single greatest American art form. I would be so bold as to say jazz comes in second. There’s just something about stand-up, and the guts of just standing up with a mic and making drunk people laugh.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it, when you’re in a room and the comic is hot and the room is well behaved and completely focused at that center stage, it’s magical. That’s what we want to try to reproduce.
On whether the specter of the short-lived Las Vegas Comedy Festival gives them pause
No. Actually, it was emboldening. Because (that) was the anithesis of what we wanted to do. It was a festival only in name. There was nothing intimate. It was an embarrassment of riches with all the names — Seinfeld and Bill Burr and John Oliver and Wanda Sykes — it was just an amazing collection of talent. But a lot of people, both in the industry and in the general public, felt it was inaccessible.
We wanted to create that intimate club setting, where you would see four amazing comics for 20 bucks, and it would be a true walking festival.
On the intimacy of this festival
They’re performing 20 minutes. It’s not one of those things were you go to a show and it’s like, Okay, I’ve gotta invest an hour, I really don’t know who this comic is, but I’ve heard about him — no. You’ll be able to see four of them, and mix and match throughout.
On getting headliner Dave Attell
That was a real get. That was a vote of confidence from him, because we’re still the only festival he’s doing in 2017. We plan to treat that accordingly. It’s a very special thing to us, especially with his connection to Vegas.
On the scope of the festival
It’s an audacious lineup, 27 comics, 32 shows — but it’s 6,000-8,000 tickets. Which, spread out over three nights, with different rooms, doesn’t mean 6,000-8,000 people.
You don’t get a second chance with festivals. The first year has to leave a crater. It has to get noticed. The whole concept of Let’s try it with five comedians and do a room and try to build it from there doesn’t work. You have to come in with a splash.
On sense of place
One of the things that is really special is that we have these immensely popular comics coming, who have these great followings. But then we’re doing a locals showcase. And the local showcase is gonna be in the Zappos chambers (at 440 seats, the festival’s largest venue). We want to create this world-class, new destination, U.S. comedy festival that’s still heavily anchored in the area.
For a full schedule and ticket prices, see crapshootcomedyfestival.com