If you count the time first-grader Dom Irrera ticked off a nun at school and was forced to perform for upperclassmen as punishment, the Philadelphia comedian is celebrating his 60th year in stand-up.
“The sister said, ‘You think you’re funny, well then, get in front of the eighth grade,’” Irrera recalls while calling from Los Angeles. “I had a good set. I had to work clean since it was Catholic school. I had a big lull in between gigs, but I discovered what I wanted to do early in life.”
The 67-year-old comic, who will perform Saturday at Goodnights in Raleigh, has seemingly played every club in the country. But unlike many comics of the past 30 years, Irrera never sought to leave stand-up for sitcoms.
“I never cared about being in a sitcom,” Irrera said. “For those who do them, be careful what you wish for. I did a sitcom with Damon Wayans (“My Wife and Kids”) back in the day and I found all of the waiting around to be boring. Don’t get me wrong. If someone were to offer me millions to do a sitcom, I would do it, but it was never a goal of mine.”
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But Irrera will be part of a new Showtime dark comedy, “I’m Dying Up Here,” which will hit the small screen at some point in 2016. The series is set in the 1970s comedy club scene.
“I have a little part in this show Jim Carrey is doing,” Irrera says. “I play a lounge comic. I don’t mean to be a name dropper, but Bruce Willis created a series around this character, but the network didn’t like the writing and they dropped the show. I’m a recurring character who plays this guy who is bitter. He’s like, ‘Why do these young kids get all the breaks?’”
In real life, Irrera is far from bitter. In addition to stand-up and acting roles, he has scored some lucrative voice-over gigs on “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and “Hey Arnold!”
“Doing the voice-over work is so easy,” Irrera says. “The funny thing is that my audience knows me more for ‘Hey Arnold!’ than for my appearance on ‘Seinfeld.’”
Irrera played a prop comic on a “Seinfeld” episode 20 years ago, but initially spurned Larry David’s offer to act on the show.
“Larry was great,” Irrera says. “He’s an old friend and he offered me parts in two or three episodes of ‘Seinfeld,’ but I kept turning him down. I had no idea how good ‘Seinfeld’ was at the time. Larry wanted me to play the barber in the episode when Jerry betrays the barber he was going to all of those years. Anyway, I finally thought to myself, ‘I’ll do one of their shows and do Larry a favor.’ I had no idea that I was doing myself a favor. Since then, I’ve seen every episode of ‘Seinfeld,’ which is such a great show.”
The Goodnights show is special for Irrera since Raleigh-based comedian Mark Brady will host. Brady’s father went to college with Irrera at Barry University in Miami.
“I’ve known Mark since he was a little boy,” Irrera says. “His goal as a comic has been to open for me, and it’ll be happening when I get to Raleigh.”
Irrera, who seems to have set – and reached – all of his goals, isn’t going to slow down even though he’s getting older.
“I don’t need to stop,” Irrera says. “Look at Rodney Dangerfield. He didn’t even break until he was up there, and he didn’t stop. I got the greatest job in the world. I don’t need a sitcom. I just need a microphone and I’m good.”
Who: Dom Irrera
When: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Goodnights Comedy Club, 861 W. Morgan St., Raleigh