by Andrew Wantuck
Talking to Dom Irrera is always a great time because he does exactly what he talks about in this article in terms of being a Great stand up comedian. He's real. He's always himself, and he has found his voice. Dom Irrera was voted in the top 100 comics of all -time and has been on television for over 20 years. In this interview we discussed his show on DIRECTV (Channel 101- Tuesday's at 10:00 PM), people who steal his jokes, and the worst part of Hermosa Beach.
Andrew: So let's hit the ground running. Your TV show on DIRECTV, how is that going?
Dom: Good, we got picked up again, we are going to shoot it again in July. It's a lot of fun, it's real fun for me, and at airports and stuff, people will say, "Hey, The Judge!" and I'm thinking, "Who is the Judge?? Oh wait, it's me!" The thing about that show is that we shoot 'em all at once, so it's not something I do every week where I really think of myself as a judge.
Andrew: So how of those do you shoot in a day?
Dom: Either 2 or 3. You know, DIRECTV gave me some trouble about returning a box. They said, "All you gotta do is take it to Federal Express" and I said, "I don't want to go to Federal Express, why don't you pick it up, if it's that important to you. What am I gonna do with it, start my own network?"
Dom: "The Dom Network." So anyways, this is the great thing about having pull. I called the Vice President and his secretary sends a messenger over to grab it.
Andrew: In your opinion, how does a good stand-up comic become a great stand-up comic?
Dom: I think something just clicks inside of them. The great stand-ups comics to me are the ones who are the essence of who the really are. Not the ones who are completely a character, stuck in a character that's really not them. I know that guys can make millions doing that, but not for the business sake of it, I'm talking about for the art's sake of it, I think there is nothing more fun than seeing a guy who really, not to make it over-therapeutic, got in touch with himself. And when you hear that kind of honestly, and are thinking, "Man, is that funny. I can't believe he said that, that was so [true]!" I think that separates a lot of people because there are people that imitate stand-up comedians, just like people who imitate singers. They don't really have their own soul, they just imitate what they think they should sound like. [imitating voice] "..and I'm telling you babe, bub bub bub bub blah blah... and hey look Sparky, if you that's gonna happen, well it just ain't gonna today, see?" You know that rhythm, nobody talks like that! Like Daniel Tosh, that's Daniel up there [on stage]. Now, one of the things that separates him is that he's incredibly talented. You could be yourself, and still not be funny. You've gotta be funny. But I think that's one of the cool things, when you find your own voice and it's really you that's talking.
Andrew: And how long did it take you to find you own voice?
Dom: Eh, it took me 'bout an hour, hour and a half.
Dom: I mean, to really get it down, probably bout an hour and a half without a break. Then I took a nice lunch, I had a buffet. But I don't know, when I first started, I didn't whether to be too fast, or too slow, or too this or that... you know. And then I realized the rhythm developed itself over the years, the feedback, I really don't know how long it took, but it took probably, at least 10 years. That doesn't mean it was a struggle for 10 years, though. The coolest thing to me is just to go up on stage and be yourself and get laughs, you know. Rather than being some hocky, character kind of guy.
Andrew: When you are, let's say happy in your personal life, or maybe miserable in your personal life. Do either of those translate to good stand-up? Tell me a little bit about that.
Dom: Well, if you're too happy, you might be too distracted from writing jokes, and if you're too depressed, you don't feel like working. I think anger and a moderate comedian depression is good. A comedian's depression, to me, is like getting up for a full breakfast, then looking outside, seeing it's sunny, then pulling the drapes [closed] and going back to sleep for 2 hours, for no reason. It's like you look at the world, and go, "Ehh, not today." You know? I think a lot of good humor comes out of that kind of depression.
Andrew: Talk to me about being as prolific of a writer as you are, and for as long as you've been in the business, you must have been in the room when you see someone doing your own act, or something that you've done and put on television.
Dom: Oh yeah.
Andrew: Can you tell me a little bit about a specific time that happened? Have you ever gotten into a confrontation, or are you more subtle about it?
Dom: Well, when I first got into a confrontation with the guy, he came out to LA, and I was still only in New York, and I said to him, "I heard you're doing my bit." and he says, "Yeah, but I didn't steal it from you, I stole it from somebody else that stole it from you."
Andrew: That's a twisted logic.
Dom: Right, I know, that doesn't make it right! So I told him, "Look, I just want you to know something about me, I'm not a guy who really would talk things out. If I hear that you did it again, I'm just going to sucker you. There's no question, there's no discussion, I'll just come up and punch you straight in the face." "No no no man, I ain't gonna do it no more!" That's a pretty daunting thing to have hanging over your head. Who else..? One other guy, who is a very, very big comedian, he disarmed me completely. I said, "You know, I hear you're doing one of my bits on television.", and he says, "Yeah, Dom, but that was 2 years ago.", and then he hugs me! And I didn't know what to say! Like, I didn't know there was a statute of limitations!
Dom: And I liked the guy, and I was just like, "Ah fuck, I don't know what to say now." and he just walked away after he hugged me. I was left there going, "That's it?"
Dom: And an English guy did a bit of mine up in Canada, and he didn't get a laugh, cuz they knew it was my bit. And I said, "I do that bit." And you know what he says to me? He goes, "OK, I won't go it here anymore."
Andrew: I won't do it here.
Dom: And I told him that's not good enough. I wrote it! You know, I don't look for it, I don't try to be a comedy policeman. But, one of my friends did a whole bit on television. It was one of my bits about the Soprano's when people come up to me (because I'm Italian) and they go, "Why aren't you on The Sopranos?" "Man, I never thought of that, that's a good idea! I'll let them know I'm available because I doubt they can find an Italian actor in the New York/ New Jersey area. Right?
Andrew: [laughs] Sure.
Dom: And she did it on the panel, because she panicked, and she immediately apologized. But she knew what she was doing. She just froze and didn't have anything to say and went for it, you know? So that happened to me, but you know, I really don't like to look for it. But it happens.
Andrew: Is there a bit in your act that you like the most over your career?
Dom: Well, first of all, I am not a fan, I am not my cup of tea.
Dom: I like guys that are more clever, and funnier, that's just me. See, I don't know, one bit? I think the bit that I would do sometimes about baggage, when they said that a stranger gives you a present to come on the plane, it's just a fun bit to do because who is going to arbitrarily come up to give you a present? "Hey pal, what is it?", "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.." I like some of the character stuff, I've been working on the lounge comedian. Did you ever see me do the lounge comedian? I've also been getting together some really bad, funny jokes, like almost kids jokes. I've got, "Why don't elephants play poker in the jungle? Because there's too many cheetahs!! C'mon!"
Dom: I love those jokes! Of course they're not jokes I've written. There was one more thing I wanted to tell you about the stealing thing. Oh, I was in Denmark, and talk about the ultimate in stealing [material], and Bill Hicks, he was a friend of mine, remember Bill?
Andrew: I'm a huge fan of Bill Hicks.
Dom: Well Bill was a huge friend of mine, and somebody was doing his act in Danish! Now how do you stop that? The guy did his act, verbatim! He listened to his album, and did his act!
Andrew: Why should a regular guy just sitting at home on his couch come see you perform at The Comedy & Magic Club?
Dom: Well, unless he has a really fun house that he lives in, the energy of your house with your wife siting there saying, "Would you take me out for a laugh for God's sake?" just isn't the same. I think that would be motivation. "If you could make me laugh like those guys, you wouldn't have to pay for laughs"!
Andrew: And then, to wrap it up, can you give me something you do or don't like about Hermosa Beach?
Dom: There are too many young girls to choose from.
Dom: I get so confused. First I'm following one girl one way, and then I'm following another one a different way. I ended up missing dinner a couple times because of that. Their skirts are too short! And girls that young should not be wearing high heels! It's wrong I tell ya, wrong!
Dom Irrera Will be headlining The Comedy & Magic Club Friday, June 19th & Saturday, June 20th 2009. ER.