It was at the Casba Comedy Club at the corner of Atlantic and Spicer avenues in Wildwood where legendary comedian Dom Irrera spent summers honing his act on stage - first as a newcomer, and then as a beloved regular.
The club closed last year, but Irrera, not one to forget his roots, credits the Wildwood comedy spot and its former owner, Mark "The Don" Vito, with giving him his start. And while he has certainly moved up a few notches in the comedy/celebrity food chain, competition remains fierce.
"Last night I was on stage with Louis CK … I'm always up against that kind of competition," Irrera says. "I really like it. The thing about stand-up is - look, Michael Jordan can try all he wants, but he will never be Michael Jordan again. But the one thing about stand-up is, unless you get conked in the head, you can keep getting better. You never know where you're going to get material."
Irrera will continue a 25-year comedy tradition of performing in the Wildwoods when he returns to headline the Dom Irrera & Friends Comedy Beach Bash, taking place Saturday, Aug. 17, in the Starlight Ballroom at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
Irrera will be joined by fellow comedians and Philadelphia natives Pat House and Chris Coccia.
Often defined as a "comedian's comedian" (whether he likes it or not), Irrera has appeared at almost every major comedy club, countless festivals and just about every late-night talk show that has existed over the past two decades. The South Philly-born comic is a six-time American Comedy Award nominee and two-time CableACE Award winner who has shared the stage with everyone from Rodney Dangerfield to Jerry Seinfeld to Daniel Tosh (whom he calls a close friend).
"It's just a blast, you know?" Irrera says. "I've been doing (stand-up) so long, I can do it in a hammock at this point. It's fun to be relaxed at something. You're going out to make people laugh. You're evoking that one emotion. Even music evokes a lot of emotions. But laughter, if anything … sometimes it will make you think … but the point of it all is to give people a break and a break away from the real world."
"I have an advantage that I hang around with guys a lot younger than me, and that really helps my stand-up," Irrera says. "I want people to have a good time. I don't have any message. I try and keep it relevant and topical, and if it's funny, I'm doing my job."
Irrera's comedy show won't be the only beach bash in Wildwood this weekend. The fourth annual Tattoo Beach Bash, billed as the largest tattoo convention at the Jersey shore, will be at the Wildwood Convention Center from Friday, Aug. 16, through Sunday, Aug. 18.
The convention will bring together nationally and internationally known tattoo artists for live tattooing, a traveling tattoo museum, and some tattoo celebrities, including cast members from season three of "Ink Masters" and stars from "LA Ink."
The weekend will also include fun sideshow acts, including sword swallowing, suspension acts, and a swimsuit competition featuring tattooed models, says Mike Siderio, promoter of the Tattoo Beach Bash.
"We're trying to make it more of a show, with more entertainment, and not just a trade show," says Siderio, a former police officer who also owns Rebel Image, a tattoo studio in Rio Grande.
Siderio wanted to bring a tattoo convention to his hometown for years, he says. After years in the tattoo industry and with encouragement from good friend Tony Olivas, Siderio began the behind-the-scenes work.
Four years in, the convention continues to grow, Siderio says.
"This is our first year moving (the convention) into August," Siderio says. "We're hoping for a nice turnout. It's definitely growing and getting more popular. Now, people are calling us, asking us about it."
It is fitting that Siderio is the man behind the Tattoo Beach Bash. After trying (and failing) to open the first tattoo parlor in Wildwood back in 1984, he eventually got approval to open the first tattoo parlor in all of Cape May County in 1990.
"I figured I opened the first tattoo parlor … If anybody should do a tattoo convention, I should be the one to do it," Siderio says.
"It's so intriguing to look at an image on a piece of paper … to wear it on your skin, it adds so much life to it. It's like a painting on a wall, but I get to carry it with me."