Photo: Comix / Contributed Photo
Blame it on Leno.
It was comedy icon Jay Leno who unwittingly encouraged Providence, R.I., native Paul Mecurio to give up a career as a mergers and acquisition lawyer-turned-investment banker to become a writer and stand-up comic.
And to “live a secret double life” for a while that, according to Mecurio, rivaled that of British spy James Bond 007. To hear tell, at a benefit event several years ago that Mecurio and Leno were attending, the lawyer approached the star and “gave” him a joke to use on his NBC “Tonight” show.
“I told him he could have it; writing jokes was a hobby of mine. As I was walking away, he called after me and asked for my name and phone number, which I had forgotten to write down,” Mecurio said, laughing. “I thought he was just being nice.”
But soon after, Mecurio received a call from Leno’s staff: “ ‘Mr. Leno would like to do one of your jokes.’ It was a transformative moment,” Mecurio recalled.
Along with a $50 fee, Mecurio received some advice: “You’re too wordy; get to the punchline” quicker. (Eventually he would work for Leno on a more-lucrative basis.)
Comix at Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville. Thursday-Friday-Saturday April 27-29, 8 p.m., and Saturday, April 29, 10:30 p.m. $45-$15, depending on performance, plus $10 food/drink minimum. 21 and older. 860-862-7000, comixcomedy.com
“That led to my secret life: corporate board rooms by day, seedy dive bars by night,” where he focused on improving his material and its delivery to a mostly unappreciative audience.
“I didn’t even tell my wife about my double life,” he said, “although she eventually got suspicious that I had to work so many late nights — and came home smelling of beer and cigarettes, with lots of phone numbers (of contacts) written on little pieces of paper stuffed into my pockets. She knew something was going on” — but not the love affair she feared.
“As I’ve told everyone, stand-up picked me; I didn’t pick stand-up” for a career,” he added. “I love it; I’ve always loved it.”
And what a career it has been. At the moment he is a writer for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and frequently appears on the show doing stand-up; he is a recurring pop culture/general news commentator and satirist on CNN, NBC, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS, HLN and daytime television, according to his bio. On his podcast, “2 Chairs and A Microphone,” he has interviewed icons from entertainment, pop culture, music, politics, science and sports, including Paul McCartney, Colbert, Bryan Cranston, Carrie Keagan, Judd Apatow, Kristen Chenoweth, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Burr, Adam McKay, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Lewis Black and Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.
He is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winner for his writing contributions to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” in which he also was an “on-air correspondent.” A film in which he is featured, “The Bleeder,” starring Golden Globe-winner Liev Schreiber, a drama about boxer Chuck Wepner (and his duel with Muhammad Ali), will be released soon, he said.
A graduate of Providence College and Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., Mecurio said he still loves doing stand-up and will be visiting Comix at Mohegan Sun for four performances Thursday-Saturday, April 27-29.
“I like making the audience feel that we’re all just hanging out. … I interact with the audience and make them part of the show on stage. I have broad curiosity about a lot of things … so it’s a healthy … fun mix of material with maybe a little about politics.”
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