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Coming home to make people laugh

Comic and South Philly native Eleanor Kerrigan, who will be performing at Rivers Casino on Oct. 21.

South Philly will always be home for Eleanor Kerrigan, even if she’s tweaked her accent a bit.

The stand-up comedienne who has performed on some of the biggest stages across the country simply loves coming home to visit her mother in her childhood home near 18th and Johnston streets when she has an east coast event.

Nowadays, the sleeping arrangements are a little less crowded.

“A lot of people say when you go home, do you get to sleep in your old bedroom,” Kerrigan said. “I never really had my own bedroom. I had to share it with my brothers and there were seven of us in one room.”

Kerrigan was one of 10 children raised in a one-family South Philly row home, which often creeps into her comedy material on stage. She often jokes about having to learn a new language when she moved to the West Coast to audition for television shows.

“There are certain words we say that nobody else says,” Kerrigan said. “I’ve had people come up to me and ask what a ‘strapper’ is. And I’m like, ‘That’s what you are for asking that.’ I don’t know how to explain it. I always preface things with: We have our own language like in Boston. South Philly is pretty bad, but the accent isn’t nearly as funny as Boston’s.”

Before heading out west to begin her acting career, Kerrigan took theater courses at Temple University.

“I was doing Shakespeare in North Philly in a Fila suit,” she said. “They said they need me to start taking American Standard English because even Shakespearean language doesn’t understand what you’re saying. At the time, I was lifeguarding at 18th and Johnston and I was practicing. I blew the whistle to get them out to put chlorine in. I said, ‘Everyone out of the waaaater,’ and it was almost like scratching on a record. A young kid came up and was like, ‘What’s wrong wit’ you? You having a stroke?’ ”

Kerrigan brought those stories to her beginning stages of comedy, which are prevalent on her first full-length comedy album “Lady Like,” which was released in August and can be bought or streamed by visiting https://thelaughbuttonrecords.lnk.to/EleanorTW.

She will be co-headlining a show with Northeast Philadelphia native Jimmy Shubert at Rivers Casino at 1001 N. Delaware Ave. on Oct. 21. Tickets are only $20 and are available at riverscasino.com.

“If I have a show in Philly, I get very excited,” Kerrigan said. “And if I’m headlining, it’s even more of a big thing. I didn’t start comedy here. I started in Los Angeles. When I started, I actually didn’t know any of the comics from Philly. But now I work with so many great comics from here and stay here.”

Kerrigan started waiting tables at The Comedy Store, which is a well-known establishment in West Hollywood where many comics begin their careers. Kerrigan originally didn’t have an interest in stand-up but was persuaded by Andrew Dice Clay to give it a shot about 14 years ago. Kerrigan has had audiences doubled-over in laughter ever since.

“I had no interest in doing it,” Kerrigan said. “Most people worked there because they wanted stage time. I didn’t want anything. But I guess I went to the best college of comedy there is. I have been watching and have been around comedy for almost 30 years.”

Kerrigan has appeared on the Joe Rogan Podcast and the Adam Carolla Show to promote her album and upcoming shows. She said she’s happy just to be on the road again after the pandemic curbed shows and forced comics to get creative to continue their livelihood.

“I took about eight months off,” she said. “We were doing standup in the window of the Comedy Store with people outside watching. It was wild but it felt good to get some stuff out. Then places started opening up, like in Kansas City. I was the only one going out and people were saying I was the ‘pandemic comic.’ No one wanted to perform for 30 people but I did. No one wanted to get sick. But if this is going to kill me, let it kill me doing something I love.”

It seemed to only make her stronger.

Her album is a hit. And it all came naturally.

“It’s all the stuff I talk about with my family and making fun of new school parents opposed to how we grew up,” Kerrigan said. “It’s not clean. I’ll tell you that. But it’s not filthy. People say, ‘She tours with Dice,’ and he can be vulgar to another level. I don’t do that. But every time I would get off stage, Dice would say, ‘That was lady like,” as a joke. That’s why I named it Lady Like. As a goof.”

Kerrigan was in town in September to play a show in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. She’s looking forward to returning to Philly again this month for the show with Shubert. After Rivers Casino on Oct. 21, they will be in Royersford on Oct. 22 at SoulJoel’s Comedy Club & Lounge.

“Jimmy is terrific,” Kerrigan said. “He’s a terrific veteran comic who has been around for many years. He works a ton and both of us are ecstatic about this show together.”

It also gives her a chance to pay mom another visit. And perhaps pick up a little more material for a future show. 

“I wish I was as funny as my mother,” Kerrigan said. “It’s not even close. She’s absolutely hilarious.”

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