Dom Irrera Admits He Was "the Only Italian Rabbi in South Florida"

On the cusp of 2014, it's easy to think about all the new comics that popped up this year and made your funny bones tickle. But when it comes to the funnies, it's not all about fresh faces and polished Twitter skills. The comics that have made a career out of grabbing a mic are the ones that never disappoint. They have been cracking wise since there was no internet and successfully adjusting to the podcast way of life, all the while passing the true test of what it means to be a comic -- to be 'on' even when you're feeling off.

Take Dom Irrera, for instance. The Philly-born stand up vet has a soft spot for Florida. He's even a die hard Dolphins fan. He's been so funny for so long that it's all he knows. And while you might recognize his voice from repeat appearances on Paul and Young Ron, Dom does his best work in front of a crowd, microphone in hand, and that's why he's being singled out as a Comedy All-Star at his next Florida gig. Before he plays the Seminole Hard Rock with Jake Johannsen and Tammy Pescatelli, we chatted with Dom about his time in Florida, betting on football, and how his favorite show biz experience was as a character on Hey Arnold.

New Times: I hear you on Paul and Young Ron all the time. Are you really friends with those guys or do you have that type of relationship with radio personalities around the country?

Dom Irrera: Not like that, Paul is really a friend. We weren't friends before I started doing his show, but eventually we started hanging out. Ron, I love him but I don't see him outside of the studio. I do like the guy but he is a tougher nut to crack. He doesn't want to socialize as much. I think he has a secret life.

What is that life full of? Doing nothing or doing a lot of stuff?

Full of doing nothing. Maybe he is a freemason or whatever they are. Whatever he is involved in, I think they have a special handshake.

So you're not from Florida, but you went to school down here right?

Yes I went to the University of St. Thomas and Barry University in Miami Shores. I majored in Speech and Drama, you might recognize me from role of the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof. I was the only Italian rabbi in South Florida.

So you still consider Florida somewhat home?

Yeah, definitely. Well, I have so many friends that never left after college. They smoke so much weed that they could never find their way out.

You have the podcast. What about that medium is helpful to comics?

It definitely helps a lot. I do Joe Rogan's podcast and I do Marc Maron's and all those guys. We are truly incestuous but it takes the power away from TV shows. Late night TV doesn't compare to doing any podcast. People that go to comedy clubs are the same people that listen to podcasts. People that watch The Tonight Show are housewives and waiting for their husbands to come home from bowling. Not exactly my demographic.

You're pretty into football.

I am. A big Dolphins fan. I like the Dolphins in the AFC and the Eagles in the NFC. And I like most of all, anybody I bet on, because I like me better than them.

Tell me about playing Ernie Potts on Hey Arnold.

One of my favorite things I ever did in show business. I used to work next to Dan Castenella, Homer Simpson and we had so much fun.

How did you get involved with that show? Did they come to you or did you try out?

They came to me. I didn't really audition for it. Because there was a character I used to do that was a lounge comedian and they just used that guy. That was Ernie. It used to kill my throat, but it was fun to do.

You have done some acting but obviously a lot more standup. Are you interested in getting more into acting or are you just sticking with what you're good at?

If I get offered something, I will do it, but I don't want to dance for any of these people. That's why I love about standup. You can't be a really top level standup and still go dance for some big fat casting director eating a tunafish sandwich, reading the sports page and on their cell phone while you are reading for it. I chose not dancing.

Because standup is so much more whatever you want to do, right?

Yeah, plus I do it all over the world and I set my own schedule. I love when people think, "Oh, your agent sent you there." No, I sent me there! I'm his boss. I'm a big baby. Huge.

Does the traveling ever take its toll on you?

I fly first class, tootsie roll, because I'm big. I don't even stand in line a security.

What is your favorite kind of sandwich?

Philadelphia cheesesteak. What do you think? But it's got to be the right roll. Do you hear me? You can't use those crappy Ralph's rolls. It as to be Amoroso from Philadelphia or don't even have the sandwich. Don't even bother if you aren't going to do it right.

Improv Presents Comedy All-stars Featuring Dom Irrera, Jake Johannsen, and Tammy Pescatelli, 8 p.m. on Sunday, December 29, at The Ballroom in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way in Hollywood. Tickets are $37. Visit for more information.

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Dana Krangel