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Working the Flamingo with an insult-comic star

Deep within the Flamingo Las Vegas, fresh dry-cleaning hangs on the door handle of a grim, windowless room. A chessboard in midgame sits on a wooden table. Vinnie Favorito, a fireplug of a man with a lethal pompadour, is going through his pre-show ritual, which is to say, arriving some 15 minutes before showtime — though he’s been known to cut it so tight that he walks right from valet parking to the mic — and making small talk with his business manager. Favorito wants to know about tonight’s ticket sales (it’s a full house) and mentions that he’s looking forward to an upcoming poker tournament.

As soon as he hits the stage, Favorito launches into his act: singling out people from the packed crowd and thoroughly busting their chops. This is insult comedy at its Milton Berle once called him “Don Rickles with venom.”) For his part, Favorito says he’s been preparing to be an insult comic his whole life. “I grew up in a tough part of Boston. I was a small kid. I had to talk my way through the neighborhood,” he says. “When I got into a physical fight, I always lost.”

When a heckler interrupts him, Favorito sharply offers to “remove my brain so that we can have a fair fight.” Good-natured but pointed jokes ricochet around the room. Many in the audience are repeaters, having angled for front-row seats to increase the likelihood of receiving abuse. A couple of senior citizens get the business early on. “My act is 60 minutes long,” Favorito warns them. “You might want to start making your way to the exit now.” —MICHAEL KAPLAN

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