Paul Mecurio was a Wall Street attorney before joining the saner and less-profitable world of stand-up comedy.
“I was always the funniest lawyer in my law firm, which is kind of like being the sexiest IT guy," he said. "I’d say these really wacky things to get laughs like, ‘We can’t do that. That’s not ethical.’ And they would laugh and laugh and laugh. I didn’t think that it was funny. It was soul crushing.”
A Georgetown Law School graduate, Mecurio left Wall Street in the mid-1990s and his highly successful and profitable job helping banks get richer with big merger deals. If he ever writes a book about his life, he could title it, How I Gave Up Wall Street Money and Success and Found Happiness and Laughter in the Real World. As it happens, he’s developing a sitcom based on just that.
A staff writer on The Daily Show from 1996 through 2002, where he won an Emmy and Peabody Award, the Providence, R.I.-born Mecurio keeps busy as a stand-up comic, frequent host on cable talk shows (he was scheduled to appear on Fox News the same day as our phone interview), hosting The Paul Mecurio Show podcast that’s available on iTunes, and working as the warm-up comic for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart audience.
Mecurio is in town for several performances at the Toledo Funny Bone, 6140 Levis Commons Blvd. in Perrysburg: 7 p.m. today, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, and 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8 for today, and $14 for the other shows. For more information, call 419-931-3474 or visit bit.ly/1kwIPgS.
GETTY/ETHAN MILLER Enlarge
Q: It was your success writing jokes for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show that helped convince you to give stand-up a go. But for a while you were living a double life as a Wall Street attorney and comic.
A: That didn’t work, so I jumped ship and I started to live this life as a comedian. I decided to sell my nice apartment in New York and I moved to just outside of New York City to a rooming house. It was a halfway house with two ex-cons, two recovering addicts, and a 300-pound phone sex operator who sold Herbalife products door to door. It was just a hellhole. It had a kitchen and bathroom that you shared with other people, so I go from this palatial apartment that I owned to living in a 10-by-12 room with a hot pot on the floor with all of these dysfunctional people. I got very discouraged quickly because it was a very hard life.
Then a friend of mine said come back to banking and help me run a new division of his bank, Bear Stearns ... and we’ll make some quick money. I went out and bought a suit, went back to work on Wall Street ... and recreated my life. I was miserable and swore off comedy. Two months later I went back to the comedy clubs, and like a drunk going to a bar, I couldn’t stay away.
Q: You worked on Wall Street during the early days of excess in the 1990s. What was it like?
A: I was there. We were representing huge companies that had a lot of money, so they could throw a ton of resources in hiring us as lawyers and bankers. I was at one of the biggest firms in the world as a lawyer and one of the biggest investment banks in the world and no expense was spared. We’d be pulling all-nighters and if we’d want lobster they would send a car out to Long Island to get a bunch of lobsters fresh off the boat and get them back to us. Just to get the lobsters alone must’ve cost $300. And then they cooked them up in this champagne. It was definitely like whatever needed to get done could get done. There was definitely a feeling at times, well, there’s the way the rest of the world works and there’s the way this world works.
Q: How much of your experiences in the financial world is in your stand-up comedy?
A: It’s sort of autobiographical. I talk about my kind of journey from law through Wall Street to be a comedian. I talk about my crazy Italian family up in Rhode Island, that I’m a dad and a husband, and my frustrations with life, and how I want to kill people or myself half the time and move into the woods because I’m constantly getting into fights over things I shouldn’t be getting into fights over. I’m the guy who always has to speak to the manager. I’m that guy and I talk about that in my act. Like I questioned the guy at the cell phone store — I bought a new cell phone — and they insisted that I buy a case for the phone, “You’ve got to protect the phone because something could happen to the phone.” I’m like, “Isn’t the phone the case? Isn’t that the plastic shell that God knows some poor Korean child under no child labor laws made for a bowl of rice that day?” And now I’m like ranting in the store, “This is a scam. You don’t do that with anything else in life. You don’t have a baby and the doctor goes, ‘Look, I know it’s got skin, but you might want to laminate it, that’s all I’m saying. Another $69.95, easy clean up.’”
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.