Comedian Paul Mecurio has several projects on his plate: he’s a guest commentator on major cable news channels such as CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, and has a regular gig on CBS’ Sunday Morning. Add to that Permission to Speak, a one-person show that has been running on Broadway for over a year. Its interactive format features Mecurio bringing audience members onstage, speaking to them candidly and, in doing so, getting to know their stories.
“It’s not stand-up. It’s a theater show done in a comedic style,” Mecurio says. “It involves and engages the audience. It’s me telling stories, but the audience is also telling stories along with me. I’m planning on taking it on the road because I feel it can play anywhere.”
But come Dec. 13 and 14, Cincinnatians can catch Mecurio bringing his stand-up to Go Bananas Comedy Club. He says that his work on Permission to Speak has greatly informed his routine.
“I’m talking to people on a deeper level in my act,” he says. “It’s no longer: ‘Where are you from? What do you do? Nice hat.’ It’s more than that. You end up opening your eyes to things and you find out misery loves company, and we’re all fucked up. It’s very empowering, and there’s solace in finding out you’re not alone.”
There’s no end to the types of stories Mecurio hears night to night.
“I met this lesbian couple during one show,” he says. “One of them was married with kids previously. She realized she was gay, met this woman, and had an affair.”
The woman divorced her husband, but there’s a twist — the two women now live together with the woman’s children and the ex-husband stays in the guest room down the hall.
“This happened in the Midwest,” Mecurio says. “These crazy stories aren’t just from whack-a-doodles in New York City or Los Angeles. People from all over the world have stories.”
Another funny example is the 19-year-old man who came out to his family. The young man’s father blurted out, “Funny you should say that. I’m gay too.”
“Who tops their kid at that moment?” Mecurio asks with a laugh. “Your kid has been waiting for almost 20 years to tell you this. Don’t upstage him.”
Mecurio, of course, famously left a career in business law to be a stand-up comedian. These days, his stand-up act focuses on double standards and political correctness.
“We’re either very indifferent to each other, or we’re way into each other’s business,” Mecurio says. “There is no middle ground in the country anymore. In politics, you’re either one side or the other. If we disagree on one thing we’re like, ‘Go fuck yourself.’ It’s not supposed to work that way. It’s a mix of things that make up who we are.
“Part of what I like to talk about is getting back to a more reasonable approach that reflects on what life is like in that gray area. We’re not all this or that.”
Mecurio feels that most people don’t want to be divisive, and that they want to find common ground.
A former writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart — for which he won an Emmy and Peabody Award — people often ask Mecurio why he appears on Fox News.
“‘They’re the enemy,’ they say to me. They’re not the enemy; they’re just people that think differently than you,” he says. “That’s a narrow view on how to live your life. You’re not going to talk with anyone that disagrees with you?”
But Mecurio won’t bring too much political talk into his act — he says that’s like beating your head against the wall.
“I’m talking more about society and how no one wants to embrace stereotypes when we actually should,” he says. “We don’t want to all be the same and be homogeneous. I’m Italian; I’m fiery, I yell a lot, I get into a lot of arguments, I talk with my hands and my cousin runs numbers for the mob.
“My wife is a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). They don’t get emotional about a lot of things, they just keep it inside and get divorced. My parents should have been divorced, but they’re Italian, they don’t do that. They just yell at each other and die.”
Paul Mecurio performs 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday Dec. 14 at Go Bananas (8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery). Tickets are $18. More info: gobananascomedy.com.