At a Glance
What is it?
A combination of Cirque du Soleil style tricks and stunts mixed with an adults only, raunch comedy club vibe.
Where is it?
In a tent in front of Caesars Palace.
Is it worth the cost?
If you are not easily offended, then yes it absolutely is.
Why should I see this show?
Because you like it when people try to offend you.
What else do I need to know?
No one under 18 is allowed, which should definitely tell you a lot about the nature of this show.
What’s the bottom line?
A hilarious, outrageous, exciting, and daring show that will have you laughing too hard and gasping too loudly to be offended.
I had an interesting reaction when I saw “The Hangover” a few years ago. I laughed, but I felt kind of dirty about it. That movie was so wildly inappropriate and borderline offensive that I felt ashamed for enjoying it so much.
After seeing Absinthe at Caesars Palace, I am kind of ashamed once again.
The show has been described as Cirque du Soleil on acid, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s more like Cirque du Soleil as done by Howard Stern or those guys from the Jackass movies, with some heart-stopping acrobatic style acts interspersed with the dirtiest, raunchiest, most offensive and yet still laugh-out-loud comedy you can possibly imagine. It’s like Cirque’s own Zumanity, only about a million times more crassly funny and a billion times more interesting.
It was originally performed in a wood and cloth tent on the Roman Plaza in front of the hotel but now operates out of a more permanent structure. Outside it’s a plain onion dome but the inside is like the attic of that crazed aunt you used to visit when you were a kid. Old mirrors, random paintings, and other assorted junk line the walls and the theater-in-the-round seating is made of up several rows of mismatched chairs, a few tables, and stools. Regardless of where you sit, you are never going to be more than a couple of dozen feet from the small center stage. The only downside is that the rickety chairs are tightly crammed together and not always terribly comfortable – many are plain wood with no padding.
The production is hosted by a character who calls himself The Gazillionaire who, along with a dementedly dirty sidekick, introduces the acts while harassing the audience to a level that is shocking, mostly because everyone was laughing so hard they forgot to be shocked. The greasy-haired, mustachioed lothario of a host said patently offensive things about pretty much every ethnic, political, religious, and sexual orientation group you can think of, directly to the faces of people in those groups and yet somehow managed to have everyone screaming with laughter, including me.
That people weren’t storming out in disgust is either a fascinating psychological study for someone or a testament to how well the actor playing The Gazillionaire embraces the character, and caricature, of a sleazeball.
And the sidekick, the dimwitted assistant gets some of the shows biggest laughs with her Betty Boop voice spewing filthy stories of such scope and grandeur that they almost require a show of their own. The original character Penny Pibbets, and the actress who played her, have moved on, which is sad because it means you won’t get a chance to see her dementedly obscene yet quite brilliant sock puppet theater bit, but she occasionally makes special appearances so maybe you’ll get lucky. The show works with the other actors but is better with the folks who originated the roles.
In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, this show is definitely not for children (no one under 18 is allowed) and is absolutely not for anyone who thinks that there is too much sex and dirty words on television these days.
The acrobatic acts may vary from time to time but in the shows I’ve seen included a four-person Russian strength and balancing act; various couples doing some stunning trapeze work; a dramatic couple doing death-defying stunts on roller skates; a sexy aerialist duo working without a net on straps; a topless woman working her way inside of a giant balloon (I don’t know why); and a high-wire act that will literally leave you holding your breath, especially if you are sitting in the front row with the guys balancing precariously right above your head. That is one of the coolest things about the show – the circular stage is maybe 10 feet across and the first row of seating is about two feet away from that. With only about half a dozen rows of seats, you are right in the middle of the action and feel like the danger is real.
Absinthe is like a microcosm of Las Vegas itself, or at least what the city wants to be: sexy, daring, dramatic, funny, shocking, and more than a little dirty. It’s also one of the best shows in town.