PHAWKER: You gave up a successful career as an investment banker on Wall Street to become a comedian — a profession that pays migrant worker wages to most of its practitioners. How come? Is your mom still pissed?
PAUL MECURIO: I really got a connection from creating jokes out of thin air and having people respond to them. There was nothing like that feeling on Wall Street.
PHAWKER: Everybody thinks being a comedian is nonstop laughs, but what is the worst part about the job?
PM: The subjectivity of it … and having to clean the toilets at the club after the show — backbreaking work. Unlike my life on Wall Street, where if you did all the right things and worked hard you achieved your goal, with comedy (as in anything in the arts) you can do “all the right things,” and because of a subjective set of circumstances you don’t get the gig or pass the audition.
PHAWKER: A zillion aspiring comedians want to know: Who do you have to blow to get on the Daily Show and do you have to swallow?
PM: You have to blow … 63… ah no, 65 people; the show just hired 2 new PAs. And you don’t HAVE to swallow but if you do you automatically get promoted to producer.
PHAWKER: Good to know. Why are some people funny and others are just NOT. Is it something you are born with or is it more of a learned trait?
PM: I think everyone is funny — except for Dick Cheney — he has a black heart. I think some people can more easily display to strangers how funny they are but everyone has a funny streak or interesting way of looking at things, it just has to come out.
PHAWKER: Are you one of those crying on the inside clowns? And if so, why so sad?
PM: I am crying inside but it’s only because there are freshly cut white onions in there. Actually I think if my mother hugged me two more times as a kid I wouldn’t be doing stand-up and needing audiences to laugh at me.
PHAWKER: Everybody loves Jon Stewart but, just between you and me, behind the scenes he’s kind of a dick, right? I’m thinking the Larry Sanders Show with Bush jokes. Confirm or deny.
PM: Jon’s a great guy.
PHAWKER: LIAR! You, sir, sit on a throne of lies!
PM: I work for him what do you think I’m going to say?
PHAWKER: Finally, the truth comes out. Why was that so hard?
PM: He really is a good guy — very smart and he’s been very supportive of me and my efforts to move out front to be the host or star of my own show. The Daily Show let me go on leave to L.A. to shoot my pilot Sports Central, which is a funny look at all the nonsense and bad off the field behavior going on in sports. I co-created and executive produced the show and host it, and we’re shopping it to networks right now. Also, I have this big comedy tour I’m currently doing around the US, and I can slip away for that as well — so I’ve got a good thing at The Daily Show and with Jon.
PHAWKER: How nice for you!
[Interview by EVA LIAO / photo by BRIAN FRIEDMAN]
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