It’s always funny in Philadelphia

Local laughs: Comic Dom Irrera will perform at Helium Comedy Club this week. Irrera gathered most of his early material in a multi-generational Italian household in South Philadelphia.

Comic Dom Irrera will be taking the stage at the Helium Comedy Club for five shows this week.

Irrera gathered most of his early material 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 a funny family.

Besides being able to gather lots of humor and funny stories from that family, Irrera says for some reason he always related to comedians and grew up always thinking he’d be one.

ldquo;I wouldn’t say I was the class clown. I thought of myself more as the class humorist,” he says. “But I did think of myself as someone who could make other people laugh.”

And as he grew up, he also thought of himself as an actor, doing plays in college and some work at the now-defunct Society Hill Playhouse, while at the same time teaching fourth grade in the local school system.

ldquo;I even did some children’s theater, improv, standup and sitcoms over the years, even traveling to New York to get my equity card,”

And soon, the breaks started coming his way, he remembers. His first big break was his performance on Rodney Dangerfield’s Nothing Goes Right comedy specials for HBO. 

Later, Irrera’s own HBO One Night Stand earned him his first CableACE award for Best Standup Comedy Special.

In 1995, he won a second CableACE for the Showtime series he hosted called Full Frontal Comedy, followed by a nomination in the writing category for his work on the animated series, Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist.

Additionally, Irrera’s film work included roles in Hollywood Shuffle, The Big Lebowski and The Fourth Tenor.

ldquo;I like doing standup because it’s the easiest thing to do. After 45 minutes, you’ve made the audience laugh and you’re done. I do like making films, being around other people rather than just being up there by myself, but you spend most of the day just sitting around waiting,” he says.

ldquo;I also just did a TV show called I’m Dying Up Here. Jim Carrey gave me the part. I play an old, fat, alcoholic, bitter comedian. Jim and I were talking about the part the other day and I said, ‘Well, I’m not bitter.’

ldquo;But then I think to myself what a spoiled brat I am. I did a show and had to put on this big wig that made me look like Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty had a baby! So what. At least I’m working.” ••

IF YOU GO…

Helium Comedy Club is located at 2031 Sansom St. Show times are 8 p.m. on Wednesday and 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

Tickets range from $25 to $38. 

For information, call 215-496-4001 or visit heliumcomedy.com.