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Dom Irrera doesn't just take the stage?he owns it?and audiences everywhere appreciate being in the hands of a master. "I like making people laugh," he says. "It's my job". And one he's been very successful at as his many credits attest.
IRRERA's the winner of two CableACE awards (cable television's highest honor), he's received six American Comedy Award nominations as Best Male Stand-Up, he's performed on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", "David Letterman", "Conan O'Brien", "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", "The View", and has made several appearances on "Oprah". Recent credits include an all-new stand-up special titled "Comedy Central Presents", which aired on the cable network this past summer. Coming up, DOM's been tapped to star in a new series based upon an idea by Bruce Willis that's now in development for 20th Century Fox Television and he just completed a role in the feature film currently in production titled "The Fourth Tenor", starring old pal Rodney Dangerfield.
IRRERA's course as a stand-up was set early on. Already a class crack-up in the first grade, a Catholic school nun thought she'd teach him a lesson by putting him on the spot in front of the eighth grade. The plan backfired though because IRRERA was funny. "I went up in front of the class-I wasn't even as tall as the desk-and I just talked and the kids all laughed," IRRERA remembers. "And, by the way, I worked clean because it was a Catholic school," he deadpans.
His keen eye - and ear - for observing the people around him were developed while growing up in a multi-generational Italian household in South Philadelphia with his mother, sister, grandmother, uncles and cousins all under one very big roof. A great-grandmother even lived across the street. Together there were three floors and four generations of family that helped provide fodder for the variety of characters IRRERA is so popular for. "Whenever my grandmother told stories she used to change voices, sort of acting out the characters, so it seemed very natural?I thought everyone did it," he says.
A popular headliner, IRRERA has developed a following beyond the comedy club circuit through his many television appearances. One of his first big breaks - and he still gets recognized from it - was his performance on Rodney Dangerfield's "Nothing Goes Right" comedy specials for HBO. In 1989 IRRERA's own HBO "One Night Stand" earned him his first CableACE award for Best Stand-Up Comedy Special. In '95 he won a second CableACE for the Showtime stand-up series he hosted, "Full Frontal Comedy." That same year he received a second CableACE nomination in the writing category for his work on Comedy Central's animated series, "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist." He also starred in a solo stand-up special for HBO in '92 titled "Command Performance."
In addition to his stand-up, IRRERA has branched out into other areas as well. An avid sports lover, he hosted four seasons of Comedy Central's irreverent football show, "Offsides", where he conducted hilarious on-the-field interviews with football greats. He also hosted Comedy Central's "Behind the Scenes at the American Comedy Awards: specials in '98 and '99. He was a series regular on the '98 mid-season Fox comedy "Damon" starring Damon Wayans and his guest-star credits include "Seinfeld" (he played an annoying prop comic needling Jerry in the memorable episode), "Becker," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "King of Queens." His film work includes a featured role in Robert Townsend's "Hollywood Shuffle," a cameo in the Coen Bros. Film, "The Big Lebowski," and he played himself in the Rodney Dangerfield / Dom De Luise film, "The Godson." And he's found his voice much in demand in the field of animation. He made several appearances, as himself, on "Dr. Katz" and he voices Ernie, the demolitions expert, on Nickelodeon's "Hey Arnold."
But as much fun as he has with other projects, stand-up remains his first love. Following a three-year stint as a fourth grade teacher at Most Blessed Sacrament School in Philly ("I liked the kids..it was the hours that were killing me," IRRERA the night owl claims), he moved to New York in 1978 and began performing at the famed Improv, a mecca for the decided to stay. Again the Improv came into play. The staff was so enamored of him that they continually brought agents and talent scouts to share in their new discovery. "The Tonight Show" booked him right away and soon people like Bette Midler would call the club to ask, "Is Dom Irrera on tonight?"
Hollywood may seem like a long way away from his South Philly origins but to paraphrase an old saying, "You can take the boy out of the neighborhood but you can't take the neighborhood out of the boy" - and IRRERA has certainly found a way to bring it with him. Among the many colorful characters that populate his act are 'Fruitfly', 'Weasel', 'Joey Bag of Donuts' and of course his assorted uncles, cousins and other family members. Known for such catch-phrases as "Badda-boom, badda-bing" and "I don't mean that in a bad way", IRRERA's streetwise approach to comedy translates to other countries just as well. A recurring favorite at Montreal's prestigious Just For Laughs Festival (he's made more appearances there than any other American comic), IRRERA has also earned raves in Ireland, England, Australia and New Zealand.
The secret to his stand-up success is simple. Whether he's talking about the absurdity of celebrity or the craziness of family, IRRERA's humor is about comedy of the everyday. And every day that ends with him up on a stage giving his all is a good one!