Comedian Harrison Greenbaum Says ‘Nothing’s Off Limits’ in MAD APPLE

Cirque du Soleil’s Mad Apple, which just passed its first anniversary at New York-New York, is unlike anything we’ve seen on the Strip from the groundbreaking theatrical company, and first-timers will realize that even before comedian Harrison Greenbaum drops the F-bomb. It’s 80 minutes of music and mayhem paying homage to New York City’s nightlife and culture, and that includes no-holds-barred stand-up from Greenbaum, a Harvard grad and Andy Kaufman Award winner.

Q. What was your first impression of the opportunity to work in a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas? I had just seen O at the Bellagio, so I think my first thought was, “Have they seen me in a Speedo?”

But in all seriousness, everything happened so fast: Mad Apple was about to have its first performance, and they needed a last minute fill-in for the main comedy role, so I got a call on a Saturday night asking if I could be on a plane the next morning. I said yes, packed three pairs of underwear and was off to Vegas. The show went really well, so they asked me to stay for the next show, then for the rest of the week, and before I could get back on the plane, I had an offer to headline the show for the next year and a half. I still haven’t had enough time to process that I’m the first stand-up comedian to star in a Cirque show in 38 years, because Cirque basically kidnapped me, and I still need more underwear.

Q. Your comedy is obviously edgier than what we’ve seen in Cirque shows until now. What was the process in developing what you can and cannot say?

One of the non-negotiables I had when joining the show was that there couldn’t be any restrictions on what I could or couldn’t say. I’m a nationally touring comedian and magician, and I think that freedom is one of the most important parts of me being able to do my job, so I wasn’t about to give that up. Thankfully, and to Cirque’s credit, they’ve trusted me to do whatever I want, which also speaks to what kind of show Mad Apple is—if you want to have authentic New York comedy in the show, the only rule you can have is that you have to go out and kill as hard as possible. I have a list of words that I’m the first Cirque performer in history to have said, and it keeps growing. I could tell you the list, but I don’t think you could print any of them.

Q. Is there another level of naughtiness that you can go to in your other gigs?

My approach to the show and Cirque’s goal for my performances are the same: When I’m onstage, we want the audience to feel like they’re at a New York comedy club. That means that the level of naughtiness at Mad Apple isn’t really different from any of my other gigs. If anything, because I have free rein in a Cirque show, I sometimes feel like I can be even naughtier, since I’m the only Cirque performer that’s basically allowed to make fun of the fact that he’s currently in a Cirque show! Nothing’s off-limits—sex, politics, religion—the whole thing. In fact, I got my first death threat doing religion jokes on this show and my response was, “You want to kill a Jew for what he has to say? Where have I read that story before.”

Q. What have you learned about living and performing in Las Vegas this first year?

There are four seasons in Las Vegas: cold, surprisingly cold, May, and the surface of the sun. Also, not everything is open 24/7, but Golden Tiki is, so definitely go there. Did I mention the heat? It’s very hot here. Now that I’ve lived in the desert for a year, I realize that when the Jews were wandering the desert for 40 years, Moses probably spent most of that time telling the other Jews, “Don’t worry, it’s a dry heat.”

{ SOURCE: Las Vegas Weekly }