It’s easy to root for the good guy, especially when you can see the passion behind their vision.
Co-founder and executive producer Paul Chamberlain grew the Crapshoot Comedy Festival from a simple idea while overseeing the Maui Comedy Festival. As a Las Vegas resident no one knew better than Paul and his wife Kacky that downtown Las Vegas would be the perfect home to house his creation where his artists could perform 20 shows, on seven different stages, over three days.
Chamberlain partnered with Zappos and the El Cortez to tuck in a well-run, first year comedy festival (May 18-20) that left attendees hoping for more next year. With featured performers Dave Attell, Bert Kreischer, and Tig Notaro sprinkled along with a fantastic mix of local comedians like Brandon “Gooch” Hahn and Jozalyn Sharp, this was a first class, well laid out weekend that is destined to become Sin City’s “go to” comedy event.
When speaking of the festival’s location, it wouldn’t be fair to not mention the $350 million dollar commitment Zappo’s CEO Tony Hsieh made in 2012 in an effort to clean up the city’s worn down streets. As a result, his investment encouraged people to cross Las Vegas Boulevard to a side of Fremont Street that used to “contain” all the true sins of Vegas. Now, tourists and locals stroll their way past bars and restaurants, along with a few other establishments that appear way too cool for my presence. Hsieh paved the way for Chamberlain to host an event that would have been an unthinkable task 20 years ago. With a renewed attitude and a fresh coat of neon, downtown was the only choice for a major comedy event.
“With the topography of the way downtown is laid out, you truly can have a walking festival,” said Chamberlain. “There are so many places that say they have a comedy festival but lose confederation because it’s so spread out, but downtown you can park at the El Cortez and walk everywhere.”
Chamberlain spoke highly of his relationship with the El Cortez and Zappos, who backed his vision from the start. He stated that some were worried the hotel would offer too good of an environment causing some of the artists to look forward to their reservation at Siegel’s 1941 (restaurant) more than their set at the hotel’s famous Fiesta Room.
When speaking to Paul, I overstepped my boundary by spewing out a few comedic antidotes once used when I would dabble in stand-up, just to see if I still had it. I quickly realized I currently have as much talent for comedy now as I had then. The one last gasp of comedy hope that Paul would ask me to take part in his festival because I overwhelmed him with the “it” factor was quickly replaced by the reality that I better end my interview before my press passes were stamped void.
Chamberlain did manage to find local talent that was more deserving of the spotlight.
Hahn, better known as “Gooch” to his weekday listeners on KOMP 92.3, has been at the comedy game for a long time. He recalled his signature show as the time he opened for Daniel Whitney at Notre Dame University, a show that he “killed.” Good spot to come through for Hahn considering Whitney’s stage name is Larry “The Cable Guy.”
I innocently asked what “Gooch” meant, I shouldn’t have. He admitted he’d rather have the nickname of “Chainsaw.”
Even though Brandon was on the stage with other local comedians, you get the feeling he’s one big break away from taking his talents to another level. Hahn’s confident delivery and stage presence were a reflection of working a Las Vegas market that has a way of humbling the best comics.
“You have to go way hard, way edgy, just to get people to turn around from the video poker machines,” he said.
He appreciates is his opportunity to play at the festival but also is adamant that he loves his job at KOMP radio station and is a bit worried any more success would mean time away from his family, which I’m not convinced he’d be willing to trade for another tax bracket.
As the sun set on Chamberlain’s first attempt to bring comedy culture to the valley he seemed satisfied with the results. He noted that the wind played a role in some of the day one crowds being on the light side but his tone indicated he was more than motivated for 2018’s Crapshoot.
“We’re going to start planning next year’s event almost immediately; we don’t want to wait another year to start promoting Crapshoot again.”