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AEG Las Vegas Puts an Emphasis on Comedy With Sebastian Maniscalco, Seth Meyers & More at The Wynn

Sebastian Maniscalco is just one of several high-profile comedians selling out arenas across the country that's headed to the less than 2,000-capacity theater.

Roughly four months after selling out four nights at the more than 20,000-capacity Madison Square Garden in New York, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco will take the stage at the more intimate Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas. Maniscalco is just one of several high-profile comedians selling out arenas across the country that’s headed to the less than 2,000-capacity theater.

“God knows, Madison Square Garden is spectacular, but you could be sitting a mile away from these people. Even if you do the Colosseum over at Caesars it’s 4,000 people and it’s not close to the stage,” says The Wynn’s GM of entertainment operations, Rick Gray. “You’re standing on stage, you’re trying to connect with that audience and I think the intimacy of the Encore Theater appeals to the comics. You can see everybody, you can see their eyes. You’re close to the audience.”

The Wynn is currently scheduled to host late night star Seth Meyers, Jim Gaffigan, Joy Koy, Ali Wong, John Cleese and Maniscalco between May and November. The emphasis on comedy in the theater comes from the resort’s now two-year-old partnership with AEG Las Vegas which books their entertainment.

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The Encore Theater was almost exclusively a music venue hosting the everyone from Robbie Williams to Garth Brooks before they tried out a performance from Mel Brooks.

“Most people don’t think of [Brooks] as a standup, but he completely killed it. It was terrific,” Gray tells Billboard. “It made me a believer in doing these kinds of shows.”

Shortly afterwards, The Wynn partnered with AEG Las Vegas who brought in Chris Tucker.

“Chris Tucker was amazed at how good the room felt as a standup comedian and you could feel the love back immediately from the crowd,” says AEG Las Vegas’ Chris Hammond. “There was no hesitation in being able to gauge the reaction from a comedian’s standpoint on that stage.”

Hammond adds that the intimacy of the venue also appeals to the audience who is eager to see their favorite comedians in a more compact and comfortable space.

“Sebastian sold out Madison Square Garden, but you have a chance now to see him up close and personal and get a great show that you probably won’t see anywhere else in the country,” Hammond tells Billboard.

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With the competition for performers in Las Vegas and the comics’ ability to fill larger venues, Hammond explains that AEG and The Wynn have come up with ways to make playing The Encore worthwhile. For starters, The Wynn “treats them like royalty.”

“Wynn is in the hospitality business. They know how to treat people,” says Hammond. “Maybe they would make more money playing a bigger room, but if they are willing to do two shows in a night, we can compensate for that and make sure they have a fantastic time at the venue and at the property.”

Hammond says artists are treated to upscale suites, five-star dining and have access to Wynn’s other entertainment and nightlife.

“There’s a lot of intangibles in addition to just the deal and the tickets that are drawing these artists,” says Hammond. “We’ve found that it is a nice recipe for success.”

In addition to its musical guests slated including Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Melissa Etheridge and Drake, The Wynn will kick off its latest round of comedians with Seth Meyers this Saturday (May 4). Gaffigan, Maniscalco and Koy will fill the weekends throughout May with more comedians expected to be announced in the coming months.