It is no secret that Las Vegas stands as the entertainment capital of the world. Woven into the city’s nightlife culture are fine-dining restaurants, clubs hosting glamorous celebrities, and of course, multi-billion dollar casinos. The latter is where visitors are likely to find their favorite musicians, dancers, and comedians, such as Steve McInelly.
Originally a resident of Salt Lake City, Utah, McInelly got his start in comedy 13 years ago, a career that interested him since childhood. He was fascinated with the works of George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, and Lucille Ball, whom he recalls watching on television with his grandmother.
“Moving around so much as a kid from school to school, I always used humor to try and make friends,” McInelly said.
By the time he left Salt Lake City, the comedy scene was expanding rapidly. Getting his foot in the door in Las Vegas was never much of an issue, as he was already familiar with, and even performed alongside, some of the local comedians. Ultimately Las Vegas was a better fit for McInelly in terms of opportunities. The first record of a comedy show in Las Vegas dates all the way back to Jimmy Durante’s 1946 stand-up at the opening of the Flamingo.
“[Las Vegas is] a 24/7 town with many clubs, bars, restaurants, casinos, and showrooms all putting entertainers up nightly,” said McInelly.
When he arrived in 2014, McInelly remembers the local scene as being inflated, packed with performances and a few casinos also opening up new showrooms.
While in Las Vegas, he has performed in venues both on and off the Strip. These venues include Bonkerz Comedy Club, Sahara, Mandalay Bay, Hard Rock, Caesar’s Palace, Rampart Casino, Monte Carlo, Southpoint, House of Blues, Wiseguys, Laugh Factory, and many more. These are just some of the places for comedy in the city, with shows for locals to attend every night of the week.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down most industries, including comedy. But now, over two years after the initial closures, McInelly noticed that entertainment is back and moving full speed ahead.
“More shows have started to pop up and new comedians have moved into the market, so [the comedy scene is] starting to thrive again,” McInelly said.
Thankfully, he finds that most audience members are there to laugh, rather than take offense to his jokes. He relies on his creativity in order to make audiences feel that certain topics are funny. McInelly notes that oftentimes, how he gauges an audience depends on his spot in a lineup. As a host, he likes to play around with the audience first to see where their mood is at. In featuring or headlining events, he prefers to discern the crowd’s energy prior to his performance.
As for his fellow comedians, while McInelly admires seeing his friends onstage, he admits the reality is that jealousy runs rampant within the community. Considering the ever-growing comedy scene in Las Vegas, there are only so many spots available to succeed as a comedian.
“Many comedians will use comedy to help venture into other speaking careers,” said McInelly, “and making it big has a lot of luck involved to go along with talent and being in the right place at the right time.”
For those seeking to establish themselves as comedians, McInelly recommends writing material on their own and attending a few open mic sessions before diving in head-first. This way, hopefuls are more prepared for what to expect, though they should also note that their first performance is likely going to be their hardest. Furthermore, he advocates for creative writing and acting courses once they decide to pursue comedy professionally.
“It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it can be very enjoyable once you do it,” McInelly warned.
To him, the good of being a comedian far outweighs the bad. By far, his most memorable experience was seeing his own parents’ faces in the audience.
“Probably what stands out more than anything is having my parents come see me and they’re laughing and telling me they’re proud of me,” McInelly said, “Luckily, my mom still comes to see me onstage when I’m back in Utah. My dad [has now] passed.”
Anyone looking to catch one of McInelly’s shows is invited to Rick’s Rollin Smoke BBQ every Wednesday evening. His next upcoming headlining weekend will take place Nov. 19 at the Suncoast Casino inside the showroom for Bonkerz Comedy Club.