Episode 318: Scary, But Not Impossible…
Wait! Before I say “comedian.” Let me tell you who Paul Mecurio really is. He’s a transformer. A true reinventor.
He started out at as a lawyer on Wall Street.
Because it was logical.
And he got used to making 2, 3… 4 million dollars a year (after bonuses vested). It was hard to give it up… at first.
“I was a grown man who still wanted someone to tell me what to do,” he said.
But he still made little efforts. Daily. And those efforts add up.
Overtime Paul stopped taking notes in meetings. “I had a passworded folder on my computer,” he said. “I was making observations and writing jokes.”
And then one day he got a chance to meet Jay Leno.
“How did you distinguish yourself?” I said. “Because everyone says, ‘I’m a big fan.’ So how did you stand out?”
“There was a private function. They had this big, fancy openhouse and Jay Leno was the private entertainment. I couldn’t go. I had hours of work.”
He wasn’t going to go! He had to be convinced. He goes.
“I’m putting my coat on. I’m standing over my keyboard… and I say, ‘F— it.’ And hit print.”
15 pages of jokes stream out of his computer.
This is where the naivety comes in. Paul went from being near the top of one hierarchy to the bottom on another. He doesn’t know the right move. And he’s not thinking about it either.
He hands Leno the pack of jokes. “I don’t know if you need jokes,” he said, “But I’m never going to use these. So you can have them.”
“Aren’t you going to put your name and number on this so I can reach you?” Jay Leno said.
Two days later, he gets a call… and one week later, his joke gets aired on “The Tonight Show.”
Before this, no one knew about his dream. Not even his girlfriend of 8 or 9 years (now wife).
He was living a double life. If the senior partners knew what he was doing, they wouldn’t tolerate it. He’d be out. Immediately.
This was a gamble.
But it was worth it…
“I went and bought a bottle of champagne. And Jay Leno did my joke. I popped the champagne, and my head blew off my f—ing shoulders.”
“Here’s this box that I watched my whole life since I was 4. And my words came out of that box. That was way more compelling than sitting across from T. Boone Pickens or being part of a team negotiating a merger deal worth billions of dollars that’s on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.”
He saw his dream in front of him. And now, he needed to figure out how to escape.
Then his dad died.
“I thought that was a sign from God,” he said. “I’d go run the family business.”
He kept putting God in air quotes.
“I didn’t want to make the decision. So I talked myself into believing that “God” made the decision for me and that I HAD to do this… Which I didn’t. But I was looking for a life raft and I grabbed on to that.”
It takes years and sometimes lifetimes to choose yourself. Cause no one could really say, ‘Okay, good I’m gonna drown.’
It’s scary to jump out of the safety net. He would’ve had to go from the investment banking world to dirty dive bars and open mics.
So he took just the first step.
He left the “approved” path of being a lawyer for another “approved” path (running his dad’s business).
And eventually, it drove him crazy.
“I was more scared, more confused. I didn’t know where I belonged. But I couldn’t stay. So I moved.”
Back to New York.
(And part time in Boston, too. Because Boston’s good for comedy. Gary Gulman was there, Steve Sweeney, Don Gavin. A lot of the greats.)
The story of how he picks himself up is really remarkable. I’ll tell you more in a second. But it’s all in this podcast. And I think you’ll see yourself in this story, too.
I read Paul his credits.
He’s been on Jay Leno, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show. He has his own podcast. He’s interviewed Paul McCartney, Bryan Cranston, Sugar Ray Leonard, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Colbert and me!
I really wanted to know what lead him to DO all this. (The podcasting, the comedy, the acting, the filmmaking). And not just THINK about this…
He said he didn’t know.
But I don’t think that’s true.
It was just something that lived inside of him. And he acted on it little by little.
That’s the magic of doing.
Links and Resources
- Listen to Paul’s Podcast “The Paul Mecurio Show”
- Get Paul’s CD “It’s not Me, It’s the World”
- Paul’s website
- Paul Mecurio on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
- Jay Leno
- The Daily Show
- The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
- Stand up NY
- Comedy Cellar
- Paul Koestner – Louis CK’s cinematographer
- The Hudlin brothers (Warrington Hudlin and Reginald Hudlin. Reginald wrote “Black Panther: Power,” directed “Marshall” and produced “Django Unchained.”)
- Spike Lee (“25th Hour,” “He Got Game,” “Do The Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “She’s Gotta Have It”)
- Albert Brooks (his movies include “Taxi Driver”, “Finding Nemo,” “Finding Dory,” “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” “Private Benjamin,” “A Most Violent Year,” and so many more)
- Woody Allen (“Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Love and Death,” “Bananas,”)
- David Letterman
- Robin Williams
- Luna Lounge
- Marc Maron
- Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan
- Monologue: What Makes America Laugh Before Bed by Jon Macks
- My interview with Jon Macks: Ep. 190: Jon Macks – The Gut Decision That Lasts A Lifetime
- Jimmy Brogan (Jay Leno’s main writer)
- Louis CK
- Pete Holmes
- Gary Gulman
- Steve sweeney
- Don Gavin
- Movie: Chuck with Liev Schreiber
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