Brad Williams brings comedy to (gigantic) center stage of Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Mad Apple’

A man onstage holding a microphone.
Brad Williams cracks jokes as the lead comedian in Cirque du Soleil’s “Mad Apple.”
(Matt Beard / Cirque du Soleil)

Inside the redesigned Zumanity Theater in Las Vegas’ New York-New York hotel and casino, you’ll be transported to one of the wildest nights of your life in NYC, without having to deal with the TSA. “Mad Apple” is the first new Cirque du Soleil show on the Strip in more than two years, and on May 26, comedian Brad Williams, a veteran of the L.A. comedy scene, is taking center (gigantic) stage. As the lead comic of this big-budget show, he has the same goal as when he’s in L.A. or New York — making people laugh.

Congrats on the show and moving to Vegas! It’s so different to live there than to visit.

Brad Williams: Yeah, I’m really digging it so far. There’s plenty to do and I love seeing all the little things in Vegas you don’t see when you’re on the Strip. I’ve also seen people in Vegas that I haven’t seen for months, and we both live in L.A. Everybody comes to Vegas to go big so it’s interesting working here. While people I want to see are in a vacation headspace, I’m having a seltzer. Honestly, I’ve been in Vegas a few weeks and I’ve probably done more drinking than I should.


That’ll wear off soon now that you’re an honorary local. Vegas is talking about “Mad Apple,” but we’d rather hear you talk about it.

“Mad Apple” is the craziest night you could ever have in NYC. Street performers, musicians, singers, comedians, hip-hop stars, a Brazilian strongman and, by the way, the craziest acrobatics you’ve ever seen. This is the first Cirque show that has comedians, and we have multiple, with some that do magic. One of the comedians is Chris Turner and his thing is going out and getting five suggestions from the audience. Then he does this freestyle rap, off the dome, and it’s different every night because it incorporates the suggestions. People are saying the most random sh— and he incorporates it well. It’s amazing and if you’re wondering what he looks like, he looks just like what you’d expect. A white guy from London.

A comedian on a big stage in Las Vegas with lights in the shape of the Statue of Liberty's crown
Brad Williams onstage in “Mad Apple” at the New York New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
(Matt Beard / Cirque du Soleil)

This is a lot to process. Give me more.

“Mad Apple” is kinda like Cirque for ADD. What would you like? Do you like acrobats? Cool. Here’s some acrobats. Oh, you don’t like acrobats? OK, wait five minutes, some singers and dancers are gonna come out and do something amazing. Oh, you don’t like that? Well, first of all, you’re wrong. Now here’s a stand-up comic. Because it’s a Cirque show, people might think the comedy will be watered down, but anything goes. Simon [Painter, co-producer of “Mad Apple” and founder of the Works Entertainment] recruited me for the show and I was like, “OK, do I need a script, or do you want me to do something?” He goes, “You’re the expert on being funny. Just go be funny. That’s it.”

How did all of this even happen? And, follow-up, what happens after your three-month run?


The producers had been watching tapes of comics, and they kept coming back to me like, “This guy! This is the vibe we want. This is the tone we want.” My manager always describes my stand-up as “huggable and lovable,” so while I’m saying horrible things onstage, you still kind of like me? I guess that fit, so the Cirque team came to see me at a show in Phoenix and right after they were like, “You’re the guy.” My contract is for three months but it’s not necessarily three months and I’m gone. It’s three months and then we’ll all look at it and make sure everyone is happy and I’m enjoying being there. So far, it’s awesome! It’s nice to be somewhere where you know that the people really want you there. That’s how they make me feel. They’re fantastic.

Sounds like a dream job. How does the Vegas Strip audience feel to you?

I started off with some COVID stuff, and I didn’t know how that was gonna go because I do generally know who’s in the audience of a comedy show. I don’t know who’s in the audience of a Cirque show, so that’s different. But so far, no complaints! The people seem to get what we’re trying to do and the party we’re creating. In our atmosphere, the performers and the audience are all friends, and we’re out in New York City seeing some cool sh—. Like, oh my God, did you see that? That dude just juggled his brother! Also, before the show even starts, our stage is a bar. You can walk up and get a drink from two working bartenders, and there are magicians walking around. Then, when the show actually starts, a lid comes down from the ceiling and goes on top of the bar. And that’s our stage, so we’re performing at the bar where you just ordered a drink. Our stage is a Transformer, and the show starts as soon as you walk in the door.

Your stand-up is pretty high-energy, but this is Cirque. In my head, you can eat whatever you want, exercise a little and burn it off during the show.

Yeah, well, I’ve started doing yoga. The stage I’m used to is like, 8 feet by 8 feet. This is not that. It’s so massive that we have a taxi that drives on it and an Empire State Building that transforms into a “Wheel of Death.” I have a huge stage and I like to use it, so I have a couple bits where I’m running all over. One of the No. 1 selling points for Cirque, being that I’m almost 40, is that they hook you up with physical therapy. And the therapists are amazing. Whatever you got, they’ll fix it. I was like, free? Oh my God, yes! Sign me up! “Mad Apple” supplies everything. I forget I work for this multimillion-dollar corporation. It’s so different from stand-up, where you’re pretty much on your own and you get what a club provides you. Stand-up comedy is a lonely lifestyle. There are a lot of lonely planes and hotel rooms, so it’s fun to be part of a cast. And we’re rooting for each other. There are so many ridiculously talented people in this show, and no one pushes each other down. Everyone wants everyone to do well and do the most kick-ass show possible. It’s a fun experience, I’m loving it.

"Mad Apple"

Where: New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. S., Las Vegas

When: Showtimes vary.

Info: Tickets starting at $59.