In 2004, comedian George Wallace arrived at the Flamingo Hotel for a 30-day gig — and he’s been playing there ever since. Now he’s known as the resident comic of the Strip.
For Wallace, who has entertained audiences all over the world throughout his 33-year career, there’s no better place to be.
“Everybody wants to be in Vegas right now; that’s why it’s the entertainment capital of the world,” he says. “Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. And if you don’t believe me, ask O.J. Simpson. He’d be the first to tell you.”
Wallace’s comedy is inspired by current events, day-to-day interactions and, yes, even television commercials. Take the one about trading gold for cash, for example. Many channel surfers might flip past it without a second thought, but for Wallace, it’s comedy in the making.
“You make a joke up, like Flavor Flav is selling gold: ‘I saw him the other day with no front teeth whatsoever. Everybody’s selling their gold,’” he says. “So, that’s our job — to make twists and turns on situations and make people happy.”
By age 6, Wallace knew he wanted to be a comedian, and television introduced him to the greats who influenced his career. “Red Skelton, Redd Foxx, Red Buttons, Pinky Lee — all people of color,” he kids. He also took inspiration from Milton Berle, Johnny Carson and Richard Pryor.
After earning degrees in transportation and marketing from the University of Akron, Ohio, Wallace soon launched his stand-up career and began writing for “The Redd Foxx Show.” In fact, he and Jerry Seinfeld started at the same New York club on the same day, and Wallace was later best man at Seinfeld’s wedding.
Wallace’s numerous TV credits include “The Tonight Show,” “Seinfeld” and “Scrubs,” and he’s also been featured in several films, including “Punchline,” “Batman Forever” and “The Ladykillers.”
“I just love doing the movies,” Wallace says. “I love doing what I do. But most important is walking out on that stage every night here at the Flamingo — a live audience in Las Vegas.”
Celebrities such as Tom Jones, Chris Rock and Chris Tucker have all come to see Wallace’s act, which is known as “the best 10 p.m. show on the Las Vegas Strip.”
“It’s Vegas like it used to be — you never know who’s going to walk in,” Wallace says. “Like last week, I had Aretha Franklin sitting in the audience. You just never know who’s going to stop by here.”
Even though Wallace has been playing the Flamingo for five years, it’s never the same show twice. The secret to keeping the act fresh is constantly introducing new material — which means he is always on the job.
“We’re always working,” Wallace says. “And every good comedian has got books loaded with subject matter and the jokes we tell, and the ones that work and don’t work. And when they don’t work, we keep working on them.”
One well for material that never runs dry is the “stupid things” that people say in conversation, which has become one of Wallace’s signature bits.
“You’d just be surprised how people say stupid things all the time,” he says. “Like I called Delta Airlines today and asked the receptionist, could I get a flight to Atlanta around noon, and she said, ‘Is that twelve noon?’ I said, ‘No, that’s two noon.’”
Audience members also are delighted by Wallace’s Oprah-style giveaways, which range from a CD to a brand-new car. While Wallace has a running gag about plans to call past audience members to tell them that they haven’t won the car, he genuinely enjoys these giveaways.
“In my neighborhood, my family always gave away things, and I just like giving away gifts,” he says. “Everybody has a purpose on this Earth, and that’s to give back, to help somebody.”
For Wallace, the best part of the job is lifting people’s spirits, and he likes nothing better than putting smiles on their faces.
“It’s the greatest medicine,” he says. “When people leave my show, they feel much better than they do when they leave the doctor’s office, and that’s a wonderful blessing.”