The Italians enter the Christmas spirit with a fragrant, yeasty slice of panettone -- Christmas isn’t Christmas without it on our festive tables. We...
Whether you are familiar with “Oprah”, “The Tonight Show”, The Big Lebowski, or Nickelodeon’s “Hey Arnold”, you can’t miss comedian Dom Irrera. Not just because of his bulgy build, which he often jokes about, but because of his charismatic persona when he owns the stage with his legendary stand-up comedy.
Raised in a multi-generational Italian household in Philadelphia, Dom bases much of his comedy on the foils and folly of his classic Italian-American upbringing. He shared one large roof with his mother, sister, grandmother, uncles, and cousins. His great grandmother even lived across the street.
One of his classic acts is making jokes about the South Philly Italian dialect. Dom jests, “I teach all the fine points of Italian acting and the catch South Philly Italian phrases: “Fuhgetaboudit. DEFinitely. You know what I mean…Who died and left you bohss?”
He chronicles the toughness of growing up in extremely segregated South Philadelphia. His comedy and basketball skills helped him survive the racial tensions in high school.
During an interview with Ron Bennington, he recounts, “When my mother was a kid, she went to the Italian Catholic School. She couldn’t go to the Irish Catholic School. I was the only white Italian kid in my black neighborhood – we had race riots, and I was the only white kid that could go to school. Because I played basketball.”
Throughout college, Dom captivated audiences in plays and improv groups, as well as emceeing parties. Accustomed to the stage, Dom developed his own stage presence; he just lacked an act. He began incorporating his childhood into most of his early stand-up comedy, and when he faltered, he would resort to improv comedy.
Dom thought he had his big break when he was hired for Saturday Night Live in 1980, alongside Eddie Murphy. “It was much easier being an actor than a waiter. And I was a terrible waiter. My girlfriend was like Benjamin Franklin in being good at everything, but I wasn’t good at anything but one thing. I have such confidence because I know I’m not good at anything else. ”
Dom’s actual big break would arrive 8 years later with renowned comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who was tailoring his magic catch phrase “I don’t get no respect.” Rodney featured Dom on his 1988 HBO comedic special “Nothing Goes Right”.
On his first appearance, Dom joked about the nicknames his Italian cousins would have for each other, and how they would reprimand him. He imitated them, saying, ”How come you neva come around? Everybody come around here, eh? Little Petey, Big Petey, Regular Petey, Joey Bag o' Donuts, Jimmy da' Woman, Nickie Potato Salad, The Five Bacala Brothers, etc. How come you don't come around?”
Dom delivers jokes in the classic “Badda-bing, badda-boom” fashion. He relates to the audience, introducing his quips with “Don’t you hate when”, “isn’t it amazing when”, or “do you ever”. It is fitting that he treats his audience like family since a lot of his humor is based on his family.
Nominated six times for an American Comedy Award, Dom is a veteran in Stand-Up Comedy. Dom has performed on many late night shows and even the Nickelodeon children’s comedy, “Hey Arnold”, as Ernie the demolitions expert. He has played most festivals, including “Just for Laughs” in Montreal and Edinburgh Festival’s Assembly in Scotland, where he received the Herald Award for artistic excellence.
Dom never forgot his Italian heritage. In fact, he usually ends his shows with a few “grazie”. His description for the Comedy Central Presents in 2000 was: “Tough guy Dom Irrera explores his Italian heritage of good food, good drink, and overbearing mothers.”
He also satirizes touchy subjects, such as mafia stereotypes, joking, “Everyone always says, ‘Does it bother you that Italians are always portrayed as Mafia characters?’ No, it doesn’t bother me. First of all, not everybody in my family is in the Mafia. I have one uncle who’s clean.”
Dom has recently started appealing more to younger, college-age audiences, as he produces more podcasts and expands his classic Dom Irrera comedy based on quirky characters and childhood Italian stories to modern observations and spontaneous tangents.
The one and only Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach is proud to host Dom Irrera. Jay Leno, fellow Italian-American and old pal of Dom, performs here every Sunday. This club has been a part of the LA community since 1978, bringing great comics like Dom and Jay to our community.
At sixty-five years old, Dom continues to generate laughs throughout Los Angeles. In addition to the Comedy and Magic Club, he often performs at the Long Beach Laugh Factory, the Ice House in Pasadena, and the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, to name a few. The drinks may be on you, but the jokes are on him!