Interviewed and Written by Al Bahmani
On and off stage Dom Irrera is a real likable character. With multiple stand up appearances from his break out performance on Rodney Dangerfield’s “Nothing Goes Right” to multiple appearances on the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “The Late Show With David Letterman”, two HBO One Night Stands, and voted Number 79 in “Comedy Central’s 100 Greatest Stand ups of All Time”, and a regular every year at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Dom Irrera is a stand up force to reckoned with. Turn on the tv and you’ll see his face all over it, from films like “Hollywood Shuffle” and “The Big Lebowski” to roles in documentaries like “I Am Comic”, to “The Aristrocrats” to shows like “Seinfeld”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” to “King of Queens” to “Hey Arnold!” to “Bob’s Burgers” and many more. End of the day when all is said and done, Dom’s just a regular guy from Philly you’d share a pitcher beer with to help pass the time. We take some of that time and talk about the comedy business, his comic philosophy and what it takes to last so long in it.
I turn on the tv and your on it, what do you contribute your longevity in the business?
An incredible amount of talent!
No. I’m kidding. I’m just this fortunate to last this long. The business is so competitive. I don’t know. For some reason I made the transition to the younger generation which really helps. I couldn’t depend on goombas my age to fill the places. It nice to get college kids out. I have no idea how it works. I don’t know any secrets.
So did you start doing stand up in Philly?
I’m from Philadelphia and I started in New York in 1980 and the rest they say, “is showbiz history.”
I was on Arsenio Hall one time and Lou Diamond Philips said something about his career and said, “and the rest is history.” I was thinking, I don’t think Lou Diamond Philips career is history. I don’t think the’ll be studying about him in the 5th grade.
Speaking of Philly, do you still talk to Angelo Cataldi in Philly?
People either loved him or hated him. He’s an Iranian Jewish guy who came here as a kid. And these people are so ignorant and tell me, “Hey Dom you gotta lose the lil Mexican.” He won’t do it too much. I love when he does it.
Marc Maron said to me, “You were nice to me when I was a door man, I’ll do anything for you.” That’s pretty cool. I’ll do Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast and he’ll do Joe Rogan’s Podcast and then he’ll do Adam Carolla‘s podcast.
I remember laughing uncontrollably after hearing you say “Hey, I don’t do “bits.” I’m a prop comic.” in the classic Seinfeld Episode “The Fire” (Season 5, Episode 20) where Jerry heckles the Heckler. Do random strangers still quote that episode to you?
I have people doing the lines from the Seinfeld episode and I forget what they’re talking about. I get on a flight at five thirty in the morning in Burbank and I’m half asleep and the flight attendant says to me, “Can I ask you something? Are my nostrils getting bigger?” and I said, “No.”
Then about twenty minutes later I realize he was doing a line from Seinfeld. At first I thought he was a nut.
Do you have any advice for the young comics out there?
I’m on the road and you got to try and improve my friend. If you don’t improve, you get worse. That’s my philosophy. That’s the hard part (is to) just keep writing. We were talking about it the other night, about writing stand up. It does not get any easier. Everyone is thinking about the same premises, Ray Rice, Ebola, and all you can do is put your own view on it.
There is no secret. You got to be so good that people are asking for you. People are looking and asking, “Is there a president of showbiz I can call and get my kid on this show?” It’s not like that. It’s the audience that dictates it. If they give the kid a standing ovation, they’re going to go, “That famous guy was good, you know who was better? The third guy!” That’s how it works.
You can catch Dom Irrera when he’s not on the road, every week serving time as judge on Direct TV’s Supreme Court of Comedy, and on Nicktoons “Back at the Barnyard” and hosting his weekly podcast “Dom Irrera Live From the Laugh Factory” on iTunes and where else fine podcasts are found.