From the inside of dive bars to huge fancy concert halls, comedy and rock have coexisted on stages for decades. And thanks to Goddamn Comedy Jam, they have been melded into one face-melting and gut-busting show. On Tuesday, January 16, the Hollywood hit arrives at Fremont East’s Backstage Bar and Billiards and gets the Las Vegas treatment.
The DTLV installment will feature some familiar faces, including The Amazing Johnathan, Steve Byrne, Pete Giovine, Joel Ozborn and host (and creator) of the GDCJ, Josh Adam Meyers. Taking inspiration from the Vegas Strong movement, all proceeds will be donated to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund.
The concept is simple: a comedian picks a song, tells a funny tale about it and then performs it with a full band. The wildly funny and popular event kicked off in Hollywood in 2014 and made its way to television via Comedy Central in 2017. The show continues to mesh comedy and rock at the Roxy Theater, selling out 32 performances at the historic venue so far.
But it took a former local to introduce the concept to Las Vegas.
Pete Giovine was raised on the East Coast and is now a stand-up comedian in Los Angeles, but he resided in the Valley when he served as a host for Beacher’s Madhouse, a vaudeville-inspired club at MGM Grand. Beyond his animated antics in that show, Giovine also worked at many other area clubs, pioneering the mood-director concept.
“I was known for my high energy on and off mic and began getting paid to be a person to keep the party hype—dancing around like a crazy person and firing up the crowd. The clubs realized they needed this type of position. Thus was born the salaried ‘mood directors’ of which I was one of the first,” he says.
Although he ventured to Los Angeles, he always held onto an appreciation of what the Las Vegas community has to offer.
“There is no place like Las Vegas,” he says fondly. “Las Vegas takes care of its people. We all work to be the best for tourists to provide an unforgettable experience. In doing that, the locals band together to create an amazing destination where anything is possible. There is no other city that does this.”
Giovine takes his act on the road throughout the year, performing both as a stand-up and a private event emcee, basically snapping up any gig that he says “requires a cool, non-cheesy personality on the mic.” He also hosts a podcast, creating top 10 lists with his friend and fellow comedian Bret Ernst. Busy or not, when the opportunity to revisit Las Vegas came, he jumped at it.
“In all my years in Vegas, I was performing at hotels on and around the Strip. The Downtown area has always been a place I’ve wanted to play,” he says. “There is such a cool energy there that does not feel corporate and straitlaced. There is an edge and an exciting redefinition of the area. That’s why I asked the Comedy Jam to do a show down on Fremont. The goal is to see if people like it, then maybe find a Las Vegas home for the Comedy Jam Downtown.”
For the Las Vegas installment of GDCJ, they are tailoring it to the unique tone of the city.
“Each comic will be telling a Vegas related story that ties into the song they’re singing—a Vegas edition if you will,” Giovine says.
To add to the already stacked lineup, there may be some unexpected twists in store. “We have a surprise guest lined up who is a famous comedian and resident of Las Vegas,” Giovine teases.
After the event, in true Vegas fashion, the party continues at Commonwealth. The comics will be vibing along with some DJs at the official afterparty on the rooftop.
Although Giovine is known for integrating rapping into his routine, he’ll be changing it up for his song choice at GDCJ.
“The Comedy Jam, as Josh Adam Myers says, is about unleashing the inner rock star in the comedian. I’ve been rapping for years, so I figured I’d try to challenge myself to do a rock song,” he says. “The song I’m going to sing revolves around the crazy Madhouse years in Vegas when we had a team of little people working in the show.”
January 16, 8 p.m., $10, Backstage Bar & Billiard, 601 Fremont St. backstagebarlv.com