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The emancipation of Mimi

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Ladies and gentlemen, Mimi Bobeck has left the building.

Well, almost.

“Never say no,” says Kathy Kinney, the actress who played the rude and obnoxious receptionist on The Drew Carey Show for nearly a decade. “But I think Mimi’s on sabbatical.”

The brash character came out of semi-retirement this spring for an appearance on Carey’s game show, The Price is Right, but Kinney says Mimi’s reappearance was rare.

“(It) was the first time I’d had all that makeup on in five years,” she recalls.

She is among the former Drew Carey Show co-stars and members of The Price is Right host’s other former prime-time show, Whose Line is it Anyway? who are headed to Las Vegas this weekend.

The all-star cast is coming together as Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars and will perform at the Mirage on Friday and Saturday night.

Mimi won’t be there, but Kinney will be.

She says people still think of her as Mimi even though The Drew Carey Show ended its run in 2004.

“It’s taken them a while to get past the Mimi,” she says. “Most people think that I’m only capable of doing Mimi-like characters.”

Kinney refuses to let herself be typecast.

“The great thing about being on The Drew Carey Show and saving all my money is that when people call and want me to play a lumberjack with a mullet I can say no,” she says.

Kinney hopes to showcase her versatility and abilities as an improv performer this weekend.

While she admits she “could’ve played Mimi until the day I died,” Kinney currently keeps busy playing two very different characters.

The Details

Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars
9 p.m., Aug. 28 and 29
$59, $69 and $79
Terry Fator Theater at the Mirage

“I have a recurring role on a really wonderful show called, The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family,” she explains, “(And) I launched a Web site with two partners called MrsP.com” in November of last year.

She portrays “Bunny” on the ABC small screen and the very kid-friendly book lover, “Mrs. P,” online.

She describes the online initiative as site where kids “can come, for free, and be read to.”

She relishes her kid-friendly, distinctly un-Mimi-like character.

“My God, it’s so much fun,” she says. “So much fun.”

In addition to the Web-based videos, which can be downloaded from iTunes, Kinney takes her character to life, too, and reads to kids at schools and other events in real time.

The 54-year-old has no kids of her own but has two cats, Bella and Otto.

“I don’t know if they’re really my children,” she says, “but they’re adored.”

While she says, “the whole having children thing slid by me,” she doesn’t seem too upset about it.

“I think that there are people who are supposed to have children and do a great job raising them, and there are people who are supposed to have friends and do a great job raising them,” she says. “I put me in that ‘friend’ category.”

Kinney is looking forward to reuniting with many of those friends this weekend.

Part Drew Carey Show, part Whose Line is it, Anyway? the line-up of so-called “improv all-stars” includes Ryan Stiles, Chip Esten, Jeff Davis, Sean Masterson, Julie Larson and Laura Hall.

(Stiles had roles on both shoes; Esten, Davis, and Hall appeared on Whose Line; and Masterson and Larson had a guest spots on The Drew Carey Show.)

“It’s almost going to be like a big family reunion,” Kinney says.

“When other people have their family reunion they have hot dogs and beans and picnic stuff but we perform in Las Vegas.”

While this weekend’s two-night stand at The Mirage will bring many former co-stars back together, some familiar faces won’t be there.

Craig Ferguson often brings his stand-up to Las Vegas, he will not be joining his former Drew Carey Show cast members this weekend. And while Whose Line is it Anyway? alum Wayne Brady will be in town, he will be busy headlining a show of his own at The Venetian.

Brady steps into the, Making %@it Up, spotlight five nights a week, Thursday through Monday nights.

Rather than being resentful or snarky like her Drew Carey Show character, Kinney says Brady’s being too busy to join them is a good thing.

“He’s too talented to be part of an ensemble,” she says. “That guy is just a force of nature. He needs to shine.”

Besides, even without Ferguson and Brady, Drew Carey and the Improv All-Stars will have its fair share of star power.

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Melissa Arseniuk

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