Credit Where Credit Is Due

Is This Thing On? with Mike Carrozza

Mike Carrozza drinks milk Mike Carrozza. Photo Sarah Cotton.

I love comedy. It’s my passion. It’s what I do. This also means that I study comedy hardcore. I know about comedy through its years. I know plenty about sketch comedy, but even more about the history of stand-up. I LOVE STAND-UP COMEDY. I know especially about the 2000s to present day. That’s what I grew up with. That’s when I watched stand-up specials as they aired. I probably didn’t watch much until 2003-04, but I was invested. I looked into the history of every name I learned and I listened to their albums and tracked down all other specials. I still do his. Oh, yeah, plus podcasts.

So, OF COURSE, I know that “Is This Thing On?” originated from Dom Irrera. It’s followed him his whole career and it’s even become a trope in the hands of the inexperienced comics who ripped it off, fumbled their timing and delivered it with the wrong attitude. It became hacky of anybody but Dom Irrera to say, “Is this thing on?”

Dom does it with an arrogance after a joke flops. What he’s saying is “That last joke was fuckin’ funny. If you’re not laughing, then it must be because you didn’t hear it annnnnnd it’s not my fault. It must be because the microphone isn’t working.”

He’s being cocky. It’s great. It’s funny.

“Is This Thing On?” has since been just adopted when failure strikes and became prominent enough to be in the cartoons I watched as a kid, or they became part of the portrait of a hack (No…Dom Irrera is not a hack. Those who rip him off are).

The reason this column is called “Is This Thing On?” is simple. I do a bit that mocks the hacks who adopted Dom’s joke in moments of failure. I usually open with it as a statement: “I haven’t said anything yet, I haven’t failed, and I’m going to need your full attention.” My bit goes on to be about the universality of stand-up (only to then launch into unrelatable material).

Dom Irrera

Dom Irrera

Placement of this bit is important for my set. I was bombing pretty fucking hard and was heckled right off the bat by someone who should have know better (who has since apologized). This opened the door for more hecklers. The set was going so badly, I turned to my Is This Thing On? bit because it does rally a crowd (at the top of a set, so it should work in the middle, right?). In the bit, I get the audience to band as a collective and ensure that they will keep their attention on the comedy at hand. With no crowdwork or anything before my set, I realized too late that I needed something that could bring them in to me. I chose poorly from my arsenal though.

Ultimately, I got cut off by another heckler before I could get to the turning point of the bit that pulls it away from it being hacky. That’s when the first heckler (from before) joined in again.

That same heckler is someone I’ve known for some time. He approached me after the show to tell me that I was doing Dom Irrera’s bit (it wouldn’t have been so similar to his bit if I hadn’t been heeeeckklleeedddd). I took in his comment and pretended it was new information.

But I had seen Dom Irrera’s 2006 DVD Is This Thing On? when I was in high school in 2007 (or 2008).

So, yeah, I know.

I’m doing something else.

But yeah.

This column’s title is more of an homage.

Dom Irrera is appearing at this year’s Just for Laughs Festival from July 16-27, 2014. 

Favourite Comedians 

Local: Scott Carter.
Scott is a man with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working on many occasions. He is truly a man of wit and constantly shows his love for wordplay in his stand-up. His material delights me at every turn. As far as I am concerned, this man can do no wrong.
He runs the Shut Up and Laugh! Wednesdays at Burritoville (2055 Bishop) at 8:30 with Shawn Stenhouse (who will also be getting a mention in here soon enough).
We recently performed in Kingston together and he blew everybody away. He is one of my favourite comics and favourite people.

Ginger-bearded comedian Mike Lawrence put out one of the funniest and tightest stand-up comedy albums last year called Sadamantium. He couples his love of pop culture (and hate of pop culture) with his observations. His commentary is wonderfully constructed and his album had me from beginning to end. I first heard of Mike when he was at the Just For Laughs Nasty Show the Summer of 2013. He could not have been a nicer person. I could not believe that a man that nice could be on the Nasty Show and his album doesn’t delve into the nasty. But he was a hit with the festival favourite show and I could not wait for a record from him. Sadamantium was released and I listened to it over and over for a while. Please do the same.