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Entertainment venues, big and small, are expanding in Las Vegas. What's behind it all?

 From left to right: Joe Schoenmann, Luenell, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, John Katsilometes
From left to right: Joe Schoenmann, Luenell, Kelly Clinton-Holmes, John Katsilometes

Las Vegas is known for big shows on the Strip.

But casinos used to draw smaller showrooms, often times free, that people could watch while taking a break from the chaos of the casino floor.

While they aren’t as plentiful on the Strip anymore, smaller venues off the Strip are starting to grow. These are places where locals can hear the traditional late-night sounds of Las Vegas.

At the same time, casinos are investing a lot more in comedy clubs. They’re popping up all over the city, while also booking major comedians for theaters and arenas on the Strip.

What’s behind it all?

 Jimmy Kimmel's Comedy Club at the LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas
Caesar's Entertainment
Jimmy Kimmel's Comedy Club at the LINQ Promenade in Las Vegas

John Katsilometes said it's partly pent-up demand to leave the house and find an escape. With comedy venues in particular, they're easier to open and maintain thanks to low overhead and easier operations. And when discussing the expansion of local music venues, he says it only seems like a development because of the assumption Las Vegas has too few open — but that's not the case, and they certainly don't have to look far for talent to play them.

"You've got to pay attention because they're out there ... there's a lot of talent in the city that can't get paid to play these places on the Strip, but they can make it happen off the Strip."

Kelly Clinton-Holmes, a singer and an all-around stage performer, said that cabaret-style clubs like the Sterling Club — where she serves as entertainment director — are thriving and multiplying due to the diversification of live jazz in Las Vegas and the desire for people to find a regular place catering to a more classic sound.

"I think jazz is many things ... people like the standards, they like the intricate music. My husband, Clint [Holmes], sings jazz and scat and all of that stuff. I think people are still just looking for more sophisticated, traditional music."

Luenell, who made a name for herself in a breakthrough role in 2006's Borat, counts herself as the only woman resident comic on the Strip. And in her current routine at Jimmy Kimmel's Comedy Club, Covid remains a constant laugh line — as well as a way of dispensing some necessary advice.

"While they did a good job of keeping the 'Rona out, they didn't do so good a job of keeping that bad breath in," she said. "I've stood next to people with a mask on, and I had a mask on, yet that bad breath is boiling over the top of that mask and slapping me in the face! So, chew a mint and wear the mask."

Guests: John Katsilometes, columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal; Luenell, comedian, Jimmy Kimmel's Comedy Club; Kelly Clinton-Holmes, singer

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.