Paul Mecurio: A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar …

For years, Paul Mecurio led a double life as a Wall Street investment attorney by day and a stand-up comic by night.

“I was writing jokes and keeping them on my computer,” Mecurio says. “I saw Jay Leno at a private function. I got to meet him after the show and I gave him 20 pages of jokes that I logged. I thought he’d be nice and just throw them away.”

The next day, Leno called and offered him a job.

“I thought my one of my friends was playing a joke on me,” Mecurio says. “I figured he would have people handling stuff like this, but he said he liked keeping in touch with his writers.”

Leno offered him one piece of advice: to try out his jokes on a live audience. So after Mecurio’s day was done on Wall Street, he’d head over to some seedy clubs in the Bowery to test his material – the kinds of places where fights broke out and the sign in one bathroom said: “The toilet seat is used for using the bathroom, not for cutting coke. Thank you, The Management.” For a time, he left law and sold his Manhattan apartment to live in a rooming house with two ex-cons, two drug dealers and a 300-pound phone sex operator who sold diet products so he could eke out a living doing comedy on the road. After some time, the life of law brought him back in.

Eventually, Mecurio’s double life came apart when a client told him that he saw him doing a stand-up bit on TV. It led him to quit law altogether and take up the stand-up life full time, and eventually as a writer for “The Daily Show,” where we earned an Emmy and a Peabody for his writing. He’s also appeared as a satirist on “Hannity,” “The Joy Behar Show, “Dylan Ratigan” and “Red Eye with Greg Gutfield.” He is now the warm-up act for “The Daily Show” when he’s not on the road at places like Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle where he’ll be performing April 19-21.

Aside from the political jabs and observations on his personal life, Mecurio takes stabs at a slice of comedy that’s bold and risky for a white guy these days: poking fun at racial and ethnic stereotypes.

“Stereotypes apply,” Mecurio says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s coming from an honest place; not a mean place.”

As for settling for the funnier side of his split life, Mecurio says: “It was definitely a scary decision, but I didn’t want to look back and have regrets. Doing anything worthwhile is a little scary.”

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