Paul Mecurio: Life on the Street

Mecurio performs at Funny Bone on the Levee Thursday-Sunday

Of all the comedians who have TV shows based on their lives, Paul Mecurio’s story would seem like a slam-dunk for any network. Now it seems, someone is ready to take a shot.

“I’ve got a great showrunner and writer working on developing my life story,” says Mecurio, a former Wall Street lawyer-turned-comedian, from his home in New York City. “It’s a show about a guy who thinks he’s got his life figured out, which is what I thought, but then gets bitten by this bug to do comedy while he’s doing these huge merger and acquisition deals on Wall Street.” For years, Mecurio led what he calls a “secret double life,” sneaking away from his job to go do comedy in all manner of seedy bars and comedy clubs. He has no shortage of crazy stories from those days.

“One time this guy I was opening for made me take him to the Brooklyn to buy coke before the show,” Mecurio recalls. “The end of his act was to take a piece of dental floss and floss his nasal passages through his mouth.”

During another performance, while he was supposed to be in an important meeting at work, one audience member stabbed another right before Mecurio went on. The victim pelted the would-be comedian with bloody napkins. When he got back to the office, his boss screamed, “Where have you been? Why is there blood on your shirt?” Whereupon the other bankers and lawyers in the meeting calmly debated the best way to get blood out of a Brooks Brothers shirt.

Once he took the plunge and started doing comedy full-time, though, Mecurio sold his apartment and most of his belongings and moved into a 10-by-12-foot room. “I was living in this building with two ex-convicts, two recovering addicts and a 300-pound phone sex operator who sold Herbalife diet products,” he says. With little more than a hot plate and a bed to his name, he performed night after night, even under the most trying circumstances. “I got audited by the IRS,” he says. “They asked, ‘Where’s all the money?’ ” They didn’t buy the idea that he quit Wall Street to become a comedian. “No one would do that,” the agent told him. To make matters worse, his car was damaged in a flood and inundated with seawater.

After having second thoughts, Mecurio went back to Wall Street at the behest of a friend who had just become head of new department at one of the major banks. “I went back and recreated my life and then was miserable,” he says, He’d sworn off comedy, vowing to never do it again. “But then two months later I’m doing it again like an alcoholic sneaking out for a drink,” he says.

Living the secret double life again, Mecurio was back in the comedy clubs at night and got good enough to be included in a TV show with other stand-up performers. That’s when his cover was blown. “I had forgotten about it,” Mecurio explains, “and I was at this client’s office in Arizona and he comes in and says ‘Hey, I saw you on TV last night. You were doing some kind of stand-up routine.’ ” Mecurio thought he was dead. “So he pauses and says, “my investment banker is a comedian, how great is that?’ ”

Mecurio left Wall Street again, this time for good, a few months later. “I didn’t enjoy my second tour of duty,” he says. His second go at comedy went much better, as he was gradually getting better spots and gig and coming to the attention of the producers of The Daily Show.

Mecurio became a writer and occasional performer on that program, earning an Emmy along the way. “I took [the job] thinking the show would get canceled in a few months,” he says, laughing. However, he stayed on for seven years before deciding to move on. “The show eats up all of your time,” he says. “I felt like I was missing a lot of opportunities to do stuff as a performer.”

He still does the audience warm-up for the show when he’s in town, which lets him to what he loves the most. “I always wrestled as a writer there, but I learned a lot,” he states. “But I just like having the ability to have my voice be heard and not constantly feeding someone else.”

Toward that end, Mecurio headlines clubs across the country and is a regular panelist on a variety of cable chat shows including Red Eye and Hannity on Fox News, as well as various shows on VH1 and ESPN.

PAUL MECURIO performs Thursday-Sunday at Funny Bone on the Levee. Tickets and more info: funnyboneonthelevee.com.

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