Friday, June 1, 2012

Dom Irrera

Dom Irrera is a known comedy entity who requires very little review at this stage of his career. Not because he isn’t worth talking about, but, at least here in Rochester, he has a fan base that adores his humor and will come see him live whenever he’s in town. A household name on the marquee doesn’t always guarantee a great night of stand-up (Pauly Shore, anyone?), but it can also just as easily result in a night you’ll never forget (the Diceman). I would place Dom Irrera in the latter category.

If you go to and read his biography, you’ll see the word family used a lot. I have to admit, he reminds me of my Uncle Bob from New Jersey, sitting around my folks’ table, talking to my dad and pulling out little magic tricks and pocket amusements to entertain my brother and me. He showed me my first Mexican jumping bean and those little magnetic Scotty dogs, which wound up in the favor cups at my wedding 20+ years later. My memories of him all seem like secrets shared by only us, even though we weren’t that close and he didn’t visit often. Dom Irrera reminds me of Uncle Bob.

Offstage, his role in “Hollywood Shuffle” and his hosting duties on “Offsides” are my personal favorite parts of his resume. Onstage, there is a lot to choose from: his characters and voices, his easy interplay with Mark, the club owner, throughout his set, his fearlessness which comes from a long history of saying just what he feels. There’s much to admire, and even more to laugh at. The jokes move from the everyday (who can’t make beer ice cold?) to the profane (Date rape is better than regular rape, because there’s dinner and a movie), and even the ones that might offend don’t seem so harsh coming from this person who feels like, well, family. I think my favorite is the bit about the father who was proud that his son was banging all his classmates and a few teachers in college, and how you will never hear a father say the same thing about his daughter. You’ll never hear him say, “I’m so proud of my little nymphomaniac.” It’s a joke whose funny cuts straight to the heart of one of my personal crusades, railing against the sexual double-standard between genders.

Having people with whom he shares history in the audience seems to be a good thing for Dom. When he stops to talk directly to them, the rest of the room feels like they’re being let in on a secret, added to the team. It’s also a great framework for letting us know how much new material we’re seeing, while justifying the presence of the classics. I don’t ever recall hearing Dom do the Joey Bagadoughnuts bit over the years, but I’ve certainly heard my husband and his friends quote it enough times.

Dom Irrera, at a time where a lot of entertainers might be tempted to coast on history and ride the wave of nostalgia that keeps people buying tickets (Pauly Shore, anyone?), seems to continue to love his gigs. At this point in his career, he “can do stand up in a hammock,” yet continues to provide a quality show for the fans who still want to show him love. He’s off to Ireland for the Cat Laughs festival; he continues to play Montreal’s Just for Laughs. You’ll find him on your television in the Supreme Court of Comedy. Dom Irrera seems to be working just as hard now as he was twenty-five years ago. That kind of permanent presence can certainly make a fellow feel like family.

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