Dom Irrera has done so much tough guy, Italian-themed comedy, he’s fielded a few calls from “a couple of goombahs that love that stuff,” he says.
In fact, Irrera laughs about a certain restaurateur whose eatery seats only 20.
“He’s got a yacht, two Escalades, a mansion. I figured out he would have to make about $25,000 a meal to break even in a restaurant that size. But I never — never — ask those guys any questions. I don’t want to know anything, you know?”
Vegas used to be more mobby, of course. Irrera remembers playing the Dunes years ago, when hotel insiders creamed some rowdy guests.
“These gang guys from L.A. came, and they tried to enter the casino with attitude. And (men at the Dunes) just beat the (expletive) out of those guys, and they never came back.
“That was a different time, a different era, a different way of life,” he says.
What’s funny is Irrera — before he went into comedy with his mob-friendly material — worked in happy-go-lucky children’s theater.
“That’s how I got my equity card,” he says. “Here I was, the white rabbit in ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
“Cut to 10 years later, and I’m this wise guy, tough guy, Italian comedian. I think it takes away from the tough goombah image.”
TV GIGS AND GIRLS
Irrera stars on DirecTV’s “Supreme Court of Comedy.” Fans at comedy clubs still are impressed that Irrera appeared on “Seinfeld” once in the role of a comedian who uses props.
“Oh man,” Irrera, 63, tells me. “This girl, she’s 18 years old — beautiful. She’s all over me.
“I said, ‘Do you know how old I am?’
“She goes, ‘I don’t give a (expletive). You were on “Seinfeld!” ’ ”
That conversation was interrupted by a woman he dates. She was not pleased about the 18-year-old and called Irrera “Dad.”
“I said to her, ‘I wasn’t really gonna take the 18-year-old home.’ I said to the girl, ‘I gotta take my daughter home, she’s got bad feet.’
“I’d love to call Jerry and tell him I’ve got an 18-year-old attracted to me because I played the prop comic on his show.”
TIES WITH CHER, RODNEY
Irrera thinks he was the first act onstage at The Mirage, other than Siegfried & Roy. He got a tour of the dolphins from Steve Wynn (“he was a class act”). And he opened for Cher (“nice, eccentric, a good heart”).
“They used to call me Easy Money. I’d be watching sports in the sports book, and I could time it so that I could run from the sports book through the back and slide onstage just as they introduced me. I timed it to the second.”
Irrera also was good friends with Rodney Dangerfield, who gave Irrera a break by putting him on a TV special. Dangerfield helped other comics, but he was a tough cookie.
“He said to me one time about this one comedian ... ‘I do him a favor and you know what he does? He asks me for another favor? What am I, his (expletive) daddy all of a sudden?’
“I remember one of the last conversations we ever had. He goes, ‘What can I do for you kid?’
“I go, ‘Rodney, you’re already doing it, you’re my friend.’
“He goes, ‘You’re all right, then, you’re all right.’ ”
Irrera says Dangerfield is a good example of a rule in comedy: Comics seem to either die in their late 30s or they live until they’re 90.
Irrera believes many comedians do their best work when they’re “mildly miserable.” He was going through rough times with a girlfriend when he did some of his best work onstage, he says.
He’s not sure why slight depression helps comedy.
But he does think comedy pressures comics to stick to one emotion.
“If you think about it, it’s a career that’s really only supposed to evoke only one emotion. I mean, sometimes you can learn philosophical things about life. Even music is supposed to evoke different emotions. But not comedy. You better be laughing or at least close to laughing most of the time or it ain’t comedy.”
Some comedians now, though, have gotten too preachy — and some are just dumb.
“My theory now is there are too many lecturers out there. Stop lecturing.
“This one guy goes, ‘Gentlemen, we’ve got to stop beatin’ our bitches.’ I’m thinking, first of all, to refer to women as bitches is already wrong. And of course it’s wrong to hit somebody, you (expletive) moron. But he says it like he’s got an epiphany.”
Irrera, on the other hand, is just looking for the laugh, like his thoughts on touring Ireland:
“I used to do a joke about the women there, because there’s no average looking women. They’re either stunning, radiantly beautiful — or they look like sea skanks with the jaw and the forehead about to hook together eventually.”
Contact Doug Elfman at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.