Blog Rating

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Irrera Part II

On Saturday June 14th 2008 Dom Irrera kept his promise and swooped in on The Turning Stone Resort and Casino to perform his rapid fire stand up act.

Irrera did not waste a second getting into his performance. From the moment he hit the stage it was one joke after another. His loaded delivery was reminiscent of greats like Rodney Dangerfield.

During one ten minute stretch he averaged an amazing ten jokes per minute, he crammed about one hundred jokes into ten minutes. People, including me,COO Ray Halbritter and everyone else were dizzy from laughter.

His subject matter was like a stream of consciousness, one subject leading into another all arriving at the same hilarious conclusion- a gut busting laugh.

Everyone was fair game. No race was off limits no age , no sexual orientation. He distributed his absurd and often practical observations equally across all demographic spectrums.

Irrera is the epitome of stand-up veteran the prototypical comic. His nuanced delivery kills everwhere he goes. If he does not like the response, if he isn't satisfied, he shifts gears falling back on his lounge comic act to get his propers.

Irrera is beyond bombing he can mess a joke up and still get laughs. He always starts with family, his Philadelphia roots serve as a foundation for his multi themed act. The cast of character include a homophobic cousin with homoerotic tendencies, a grandmother with a mouth that would make a sailor blush and many more.

The funniest is the overweight uncle who thinks every woman wants him and when he gets rejected...they're gay.

After the show I met him backstage the first thing he did was thank me for telling him there was no alcohol. "I had the limo driver stop to get these" he held up an ice cold La Batts.

Unfortunately it was the last beer.

Thanks Dom.

"You're the guy with the kid... from Ithaca right"? he asked. Dom was reffering to my son, Barry Max, who impressed Dom with his persistence taking every opportunity to intterupt me during my first telephone interview with him.

"That kid won't let he alright"?

"He's doing an imitation of Curly on The Three Stooges" I replied.

After the initial niceties we were treated to a tour of The Turning Stone Resort and Casino. Brigitte Calisti, talent co-ordinator for the Turning Stone would be our guide.

During the tour around the casino Irrera's off the cuff observations trumped many of the jokes he told on stage.

"How big is this place"? I asked "I don't know... ask Dr. Moe or Dr. Larry" he was reffering to two approaching food inspectors required to wear white lab of them was cross eyed.

Flanked by security and Brigitte we made our way around the horseshoe shaped casino eventually arriving at our final destination, Lava The Danceclub at Turning Stone.

Lava's oppulent, plush , red confines conjur images mirth and merriment. The twenty two thousand square foot club is well suited for the young, hip crowd that it attracts.

Our early arrival made it easy to take advantage of the available drinks for the members at the members only club we instantly joined.

Our conversation shifted to his craft " I like a quick paced show. I keep the jokes comin ...thats my style" he explained.

He also talked about his love of the lifestyle. "I love this , flying first class, the best wines, foods, five star hotels...actually Dave come to think of it maybe I can just freelance, I'd rather do what you do".

Dom enjoyed himself he enjoyed the trip. One of the revelers at Lava admitted Irrera is the only comic he likes other than George Carlin. "Jeez thats great just compared me to God" he said.
"I had a light crowd but that guy Ray asked me back" he said. "That was the COO" I informed. "The crowd was not light at fact, it was full of heavyweights".

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dom Irrera is a man of many words. A man who knows how to make a point. A busy veteran of stand-up comedy that most of us know but don't know we know.

"I don't know... I do a lot of talk shows" he said during a cross country telephone interview. I caught up to him after a tour in Ireland. Irrera performed at the Kilkenny Comedy Festival for the fourteenth year in a row.

"It was great I love Ireland...where did you say you where from".

We worked out the difference between Utica and Ithaca. I laughed, he learned.

Irrera is a busy man. A rare entertainment treat. The pure comedian. He is always on, peppering our conversation with rapid fire jokes and a hollywood 'insiders' knowledge. He has traveled all around the world, been on just about every talk show and has two television shows on air now.

"Back at the Barnyard is a cartoon, it's on saturday mornings. And the Supreme Court of Comedy is an exclusive Direct T.V. produced Show". Irrera also was a seminal character on Dr. Katz the original adult animated series.

His Hollywood credits read like a good fortune cookie or a chapter on King Midas. Just about every show he was on enjoyed phenomenal commercial success. Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld are among them. His popularity in the Hollywood inner circle is exemplified by his many talk show appearances.

He could easily have produced his own talkshow out of footage from his guest spots."I don't know why I do so many talk shows... the phone rings, if I'm not busy, who knows". So far he has done Letterman, Leno, The View,Oprah(2), Late Nite w/Conan O'Brien and The Late Show. Unlike many of his contemporaries he is usually not there to push a product or show. Actually he is modest.

"I love performing in front of people...but after an audience comes in to see me I don't feel comfortable pushing my latest DVD after they spent their money to see me perform" he explained.

You can thank his humble Philadelphia roots. His humility may be the only reason he is not a household name(you will recognize him). He is also credited with popularizing the now common, household term Bada-boom Bada bing'.

"Taking credit for that is like taking credit for 'what's up'...its just a common term in Italian households that got blown up because of the Sopranos".

The Philly native started out acting in Miami. "I was part of an improv group and I had a lot of fun" he said. He eventually made his way north to NYC and in 1981 auditioned for Saturday Night Live. "I didn't make the cut but I found comedy...again". Irrera has been doing stand-up since then and has not looked back. His rediscovery has resulted in a career.

"I work a lot but I also take time off, lay around" In other words he is not afraid to live a life full of the trappings that make celebrity so appealing. "I just got tickets to the Lakers Celtics..Joey Crawford sent em''he said.

Irrera counts NBA ref Crawford, Charles Barkley and Bruce Willis among his lengthy list of friends. He also has old friends, guys from the neighborhood who he keeps up with. "One of my buddies from Philly Fran O'hanlon is a coach at Lafayette".

There is definitely more to our conversation but this was about June 14 at The Turning Stone Resort and Casino. "I can't wait...I heard they worked wonders out there at that place, after the show let's get a drink".

I had to break the bad news that the Turning Stone Resort and Casino was recently denied a liquor license by New York State.

"Why" he asked.

"Its complicated" I said. Barely stifling a rant I went on to explain the process that resulted in denial for the casino. I explained how the adversarial relationship between the Nation and local Government compelled the State to deny the casino during a PGA event.

"You gotta be kiddin me" he said.

"Nope, unfortunately I am not. Come to think of it that's probably what COO Ray Halbritter said when he heard they got denied"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Art in Utica?

The second annual Bagg's Square Festival of The Arts was an ambitous event to say the least. The people behind it (Art on The Run, The Resonance Center) spent the better part of a year to make it happen. The many vendors, artists, performers and attendees that participated in the three day festival validated the need for creative avenues of expression. Not only as an artist but as an appraiser or fan of art. The people in attendance served as a barometer. A way to measure the demand for originality and creativity here in Utica.

Friday: Day one

Friday May 30th the second annual Bagg's Square Festival of the Arts began. All the preparation and planning leading up to this evening guaranteed a thorough and organized event.

Friday was an introductory night. The streets were not blocked off, there were no stages or live music. Instead the participating storefronts along the street were temporarily transformed creating a vibrant atmosphere and attracting a colorful crowd. Installation pieces and simpler more traditional works of art were displayed in every business with a few exceptions.

106 Genesee St, Utica Monday Nite's storefront, was the scene of a photo exhibit. At least sixteen local photographers participated creating a room full of expression. Some photos were deep, technological pools of understanding and provocative imagery, capturing poignant poses and expressions, others were shallow afterthoughts. Visions from a mental cable remote.

Kurt Williams, Anthony Garito and Meagan Sample are exempt of any criticism.

A couple of doors down at 100 Genesee St. (aptly dubbed 'The Film Palace') Vince Brown a local filmaker, hosted Hobo Filmfest. Many people were attracted by the installation piece in the display window of the storefront. The piece, named Queen Victoria's Psychedelic Crystal Palace was...more on that later.

The featured director of The Hobo filmfest, Shawn Lukitsh from Agency Films, showed a number of documentaries about the hobo lifestyle. "I have an interest in trains and the 'hobo' culture" he said.
Lukitsh has taken a interest to another level having traveled thousands of miles as a 'hobo' and personally documenting the lifestyle for himself. His knowledge of the culture and the people within it leant an air of authenticity to the films he chose to play.

The railway with it's boxcars and miles of track is as much a star in these films as the many grizzled characters that grumbled through their part of the tale. The Bill Daniels documentary on Bozo Texino, a famous railway 'hobo artist' was the highlight. The feature film, titled 'Hobo', was a documentary by John T. Davis an Irish National with a passion for hobos that might rival Lukitsh's.
A subculture indeed.
The old Resonance Center was also lit up. Artwork adorned every wall. Paintings and sculpture filled the room. People milled about checking out the work by some of The Mohawk Valley's best artists. I heard a lot of 'wows' and 'what's this'? by the end of the weekend.

Saturday : Day Two

The day started with a pessimistic warning from the weather man.
Rain all day.

That didn't stop 3/5 of the scheduled vendors from coming and filling their coveted spots along Genesee St.. But it stopped the rest. " A lot of paying vendors didn't even bother to come out because fo the weather warnings" shared one of the event organizers under a clear blue sky.

The visible gaps left by absent vendors were filled with frollicking kids and curious adults. The latter wondering what to look at next. A large group from The Mohawk Valley Center for Refugees looked particularly lost. They were looking for food. Ioanna ( pronounced yuwanna) Balint, chaperone for the future citizens successfully located two different booths. Eating steak sandwiches and salt potatoes is one of many great ways to become American.

The patches of rain throughout the day actually provided periodic relief from the climbing temperatures. And despite the showers the water dried up before I finished my third hot a row.

There was also music. A roster of local bands were sceduled to perform on the two stage areas set up on Genesee and Whitesboro St. Due to some last minute beaurocracy the Mainstage had to be moved effectively shelving and moving some of the performances. "These things happen" said Chuck Tomaselli one the event organizers. "We simply have to look for solutions" he added.

At the time of the first move Tomaselli had no idea the logistical nightmare that was developing. The electricity from the alternate location was not adequate for the sound technician. So, with bands frothing at the mouth in anticipation to play and a growing crowd the frustrated sound tech packed up and left.

"We can do this" Tomaselli was overheard saying.
After a few hours the stage was moved again and stand-in sound tech, Jerry D from the Rusty Dove's used last minute equipment provided by Big Apple Music. "We got Devin Garramone in on time" said a surprised and triumphant Adam Spiridillozi.

The Grammy nominated Garramone represented the seasoned best out of a strong roster of talent assembled for the fest. Whitesboro's answer to the Jonas Bros. Intermission could be overheard jamming their almost perfect covers. The Sauce perhaps the area's most interesting project belted out a sampling of pure musical talent.

The Sauce's Chris Woods and mono-nomed drummer Blake have definitely nudged open a spot on the local music scene. Woods is a musical wizard finger popping his bass in a zone reserved for shamans. Blake, the drummer, acts as a translater holding back and rolling with him adding a perceptive structure to Woodses immense talent.

Local hip-hop innovator AM Breakups made it back from their northeastern tour to perform as well. "It was great man ... people were like: 'you're AM Breakups?'. shared a happy Maris Meilnick.

Before I left I had to get a good look at Queen Victoria's Psychedelic Palace again. This installation was cleverly set up in the storefront of the 'Film Palace' at 100 Genesee St. Two signs one on each facade of the display windows read: Peek Holes.

With a peek in one of a dozen holes one can get a glimpse of the nightmarish, and disturbingly appealing scene that was painstakingly set up by creator Alex Yeager and Tina (she bolted before I could get her full name). The angles are everything in this piece. Vials with strange colored liquids, a mannequin head. Is that a Ken doll? It was a managerie of sideshow oddities that will never be seen in the same space ever again anywhere.

The festivities continued on till late night where it was rumored that: 'everyone in the art scene was there- dancers, poets, actors and musicians'. But no writers.

Sunday: Day Three

The crowd was much more intimate for the third day. It was all about the food and fundraising. The Lomeo Brothers belted out a timely set of Blues standards, at times accompanied by well timed trainhorns provided by freights that periodically pass through Utica.

The blues harp takes on a whole different role when heard in tandem with a distant, approaching train. As if The Lomeo's weren't enough the weather was great and so was the food. A modest number of people who stopped by to support a good cause sat through and enjoyed the live performance put on by The Sir Philip Sydney Association for Local Writers.

This group of writing enthusiasts has been together for less han a year and they have already decided to expand their artistic horizons to include live theater. The festival provided a venue for their first live performance.

The group had to reschedule due to Saturday's last minute stage move but they still delivered a humor filled show. Walter 'Bud' Wadas wrote, designed the set and directed for the group. His original script, On The Stoop inspired more than a few chuckles. " I am just glad we pulled it off" a relieved Wadas admitted. Everyone 'pulled it off'. It was a great weekend.