While there's no shortage of comedy clubs in Las Vegas, it may come as a surprise that one of the best of the lot is stashed in a 2:30 p.m. time slot at the V Theater. Amazed features a revolving handful of performers who have honed their material on the college circuit. Based on the pair we drew on a recent afternoon, ticket buyers for Amazed can purchase with confidence.
Guest performer Nicholas Anthony mixed standup comedy with sleight of hand, pulling audience volunteers onstage for deft card tricks. Anthony kept the wisecracks coming quickly ("Minnesota is like a mullet sanctuary. [Elsewhere] it's like seeing a unicorn."), not always to his benefit. The comedian's whirlwind delivery was difficult to follow, sometimes unintelligible.
No such problem with mainstay Mike Rayburn, who sandwiched two sets on either side of a thin slice of Anthony. Rayburn's shtick is guitar-accompanied ("amplified acoustic," one might called) comedy, mixing his own songs with parodies and impersonations. Not only is Rayburn an engaging raconteur, he's a magician on the guitar who can segue effortlessly between J.S. Bach and Fleetwood Mac. A master of the fretboard, Rayburn demonstrates his dexterity in the original composition "Quicksilver."
"We've gone from acid rock to acid reflux," he jokes of his Boomer-friendly material and his lyrics are better still. "You're Just Bad Luck," about a girlfriend who's a jinx, contains gems like, "You're the adjustable rate mortgage/On the subprime loan of my life." A José Feliciano evergreen gets put through the wringer as "Felipe's Not a Dad."
But Rayburn's specialty is to mind-meld incongruous pairings of artist and material. Tom Petty, Lady Gaga and "Who Let the Dogs Out?" are all Country-and-Westernized. Conversely, Justin Timberlake is interpreted in the style of Johnny Cash, while the Green Acres theme is given both the Bruce Springsteen and Jimi Hendrix treatment. Dan Fogelberg is translated into the idiom of AC/DC and vice versa, while "I've Got Friends in Low Places" is re-imagined as a Bob Marley tune. When someone is as creative a musician and spot-on an impersonator as Rayburn, the question has to be asked yet again why prime-time spots go to complacent mediocrities like Gordie Brown.
The pièce de résistance, made famous by YouTube, is Rayburn's "Led Zeppelin sings Dr. Seuss," a hilarious gambit about which one can only can complain that it's too short. The versatile musician tops even that with an extended pastiche number, a bravura turn too good to reveal here. You'll just have to experience Mike Rayburn for yourself. One might even say you'll be amazed.
2:30 p.m., Sun.-Sat.
Miracle Mile Shops
3663 Las Vegas Blvd. South
$38.50 & $49.50