Paul Mecurio: From Wall Street to The Daily Show

The name Paul Mecurio might not instantly ring a bell, but you have no doubt been privy to his comedic stylings. The writer and standup comedian came into comedy not through extensive improv training but a career on Wall Street. What started as a comedy habit quickly turned into a double life, and now Mecurio is a full-blown comedian.

The Emmy-winning writer cut his teeth working for Jay Leno before nabbing a coveted seat in The Daily Show writer's room. Now as a traveling standup and host of his own podcast, The Paul Mecurio Show, this guy is showing no signs of slowing down. Mecurio is the audience warm-up comic on The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, and lucky for us, he set aside some time on the set of Colbert to chat about his big career swap, why The Daily Show keeps creating stars, and scoring an interview with another more musical Paul.

New Times: Which do you think is better? Somebody getting all of their news from a show like The Daily Show or somebody getting no news at all?

Paul Mecurio: Oh definitely The Daily Show. It's real news and then we spin jokes out of it. It's not like we have any topics that all the other outlets don't have. It's just we are cutting through the b.s. and saying "doesn't this sound like nonsense to you?"

People who start out as a correspondents on The Daily Show are becoming huge stars. Steve Carell, Colbert, Ed Helms, even Rob Corddry. Why do you think this keeps happening?

Well, those guys are heavy cocaine users, so they give cocaine to the producers, and we hire them, and that's really how that works. No, I'm just kidding. I think when a show is hot, anything that comes out of that show at that point in time is on everybody's radar. And they are all really talented people with diverse improv or acting backgrounds, so they can handle acting. I think it's not just the show but combined with those particular performers coining a point of view on the show.

They certainly came from different comedy backgrounds, but you kind of came in a totally different way.

Yeah, I was working on Wall Street doing merger and acquisition deals. Then I started making some short films when I got out of law school and I got to lie and say I was sick and take three days out at shoot films around New York City. And then I started to write jokes and I saw Jay Leno perform at a private function and I gave him my jokes and he called me a couple days later and said, "I want to start hiring you for The Tonight Show monologue." Then a week later, he bought one of my jokes for $50, blew my head off my shoulders, and I started to live this secret double life where I was a lawyer by day and comedian by night.

Obviously making the jump from a lawyer to a standup is difficult. But how does it feel to write jokes for other people?

I didn't start getting into this to be a writer. The Daily Show writing job, which I did for seven or eight years, I took it just because I was starting out in standup and it would be a way to make quick money, and I figured it would get canceled in a little while like everyone else and give me a credit for my résumé. Then one thing led to another, and it turned into kind of this crazy cult thing, and people started dishing out awards and stuff.

I heard you on the Paul and Young Ron Show talking about getting Paul McCartney on your podcast.

I got to meet Paul at The Colbert Report. He was just standing in a hallway. The more we talked, the closer I was getting to his face, to the point where I was like one of the baboons cleaning ticks off his face on the National Geographic Channel. And we talked and we talked, and then finally I said, "Hey I don't know if you are cool with this, but I would love for you to do my podcast." And I thought he would say no, but he said "Sure!" just like that. I was completely thrown, and I didn't know what to do at that point because I thought he was going to say no. I exchanged numbers with Paul McCartney and an hour later he left me a voice message, which I have on my phone to this day, where he was saying, "I want to do your podcast." And that's how that happened.

What is your favorite kind of sandwich?

Oh, excellent question. I would have to say the steak and cheese, not sharp provolone, just your basic provolone. Got to have the onions and the peppers on it. And maybe a little side of coleslaw and a pickle. The half sour pickle. I'm very particular about my pickles, just so you know.

Paul Mecurio, Friday, February 7, to Sunday, February 9, at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, 5700 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $17 plus fees. Two-drink minimum. Visit improvftl.com.

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