Paul Mecurio on Writing for The Daily Show, Selling Jokes to Jay Leno, and Banana Hammocks
Paul Mecurio is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning comedian, writing for the Tonight Show and both incarnations of The Daily Show. His journey is a winding road that has taken him through writing, stand-up, law, banking, cable news commentating, podcasting, and undoubtedly more. He will be performing February 6-9 at the Fort Lauderdale Improv, and graciously spoke with New Times about his many lives bound together by comedy.
Cultist: How often do you come to Miami? What are your feelings on the city?
Paul Mercurio: I usually get down to the area once a year, and I like it. Not enough Latinos. I think you need more Latinos. I have a great time. I don't know if that's because I'm Italian or whatever, but I really connect with Latino audiences. I like them. They're feisty, and they give you stuff back. I like to talk to the audience, so I get a lot out of that. It's fun. Plus, it's the one place where I can openly wear my banana hammock and no one wants to arrest me.
Wow. Are you going to close with that on?
Dude, I wear it the entire show. That's all you see.
You are performing at the Ft. Lauderdale Improv Feb. 6-9. What will you be talking about?
I'm going to be playing all the tapes of everyone's secret recordings done by the NSA for the people in the audience. If anybody wants to hear their online affair being publicized, come to the show, because that's where it's going to happen. It's auto-biographic - my former life as a lawyer/banker on Wall Street, growing up in an Italian family in Rhode Island, getting married, having a kid, and just how I tend to get into confrontations with people. My former lives.
You've had many; Law, stand-up, cable news commentating. What do you enjoy most?
Hookers. As many as you can get me. Little triangles down below, something tasteful. I really like doing the commentary work on TV a lot. It's raucous, it's fun, it's fast. It's always based off what's going on.
Is it strange to be inside the cable news machine, especially with your background as a writer for The Daily Show?
Yeah, given that TDS' bread and butter is calling that world on its nonsense, to then go in and be part of the problem [laughs] is conflicting sometimes. I mean I'm a former writer on TDS, I don't write but I still do the audience warm up on the show.
Does it make you feel like a double agent?
No... that's actually a good way of putting it. Yes, I actually do have a capsule of cyanide so if the segment's not going the way I like it... I've killed myself on air at least four times. No, I feel like having worked at TDS and having a bit of a jaded perspective on that world has actually helped me in going and doing those shows, because I actually know how not to be disingenuous and how not to just tow a party line and speak the same nonsense that everyone else is speaking.
What are you best at? Does one trade feed the others?
First of all, I think I'm very average at everything. You know, I have a lot of issues about that. Thanks for bringing that up. What I like the most and feel most connected to right now is my live stand up, but also the TV appearances. I like going on and mixing it up and having conversations with groups about anything from pop culture to politics to relationship stuff. That's a comfortable space for me to be in... and I like the swag I get when I go on the shows.
What kind of swag? Punditry swag? Is that a thing?
Well I've got a blow-up doll of Roger Ailes, so be jealous. You can if you want to.
Ooh, and a Rupert Murdoch real doll?
Well CNN gives out Wolf Blitzer beard combs. With little white pieces of hair in it. It's very very authentic.