The Daily Show's Paul Mecurio Returns to Rhode Island

He fills us in on what it's like to work with Jon Stewart, getting close up with Paul McCartney and where he'll be visiting this weekend.

The set of "The Daily Show" is a long way from the parking lot of the funeral home where Paul Mecurio used to make out with his high school girlfriend turned wife. But the Providence native and Emmy-award winner is back in town this week for three shows at the Comedy Connection in East Providence. We chatted with the Classical High School and Providence College grad turned Wall Street lawyer/investment banker who gave it up for comedy about what he plans to do while he's here and what's next. (Hint: A sitcom based on a Wall Street guy who gave it up for comedy.) 

While he may be getting voicemails from Paul McCartney these days, he always makes time for mom, who still owns a furniture store in North Providence. Here's more:

What do you plan to do while you’re in town?  I’m definitely going to go to Olneyville Hot Wieners late at night and get three hot wieners all the way and a large coffee milk. You can only go late at night. Preferably drunk. The trick is, you have to take your coat off before you go in, otherwise your coat will stink of hot wieners and onions for days. You really should go in just in your underwear, so none of your clothes smell. You might get arrested — but it would be worth it — for indecent exposure at Olneyville Hot Wieners. And I will get clamcakes at Aunt Carrie’s in Point Judith at some point during my trip. And I’ll probably go around to my old neighborhood, off of Charles Street, and walk around. And then I’ll get some good Italian food while I’m over there. Basically, I’m just coming to eat.

How about visiting family?  I’ll have to see my mother. She has a furniture store on Mineral Spring Avenue, so I’m sure she’s going to make me move furniture and stuff like that. My mother is quite a character. She was born with bad hearing so she has a hearing aid, but she found it in the garbage, so it whistles all the time. So you can never have a coherent conversation with her. I joke that it’s like talking to a tea kettle in a hothouse dress.

One of the things that would routinely happen in the store while we were growing up was she would forget that there were customers or didn’t hear that they were there and she locked customers in during the middle of the day. I went there one time and there was a sixty-year-old woman in the middle of the store. I asked her what happened, and she said, well, I turned to ask your mother a question and I couldn’t get out. I said, how long have you been here? And she said, about four hours. Because my mother had to run to the bank. I said, what did you do for four hours? She said, well, I browsed a lot, I took a nap on that sofa, and is your name Paul? Yes, I said. You have messages, she said. She took messages for me! I chastised my mother for locking somebody in the store and she said, I don’t know what you’re getting upset about. The woman, the sofa that she slept on? She liked it so much, she’s buying the sofa. I made a sale and I wasn’t even in the store.

Any other stops? I might go over to Roger Williams Park. You don’t appreciate it until you move away. It’s actually a really nice park. I want to go downtown, and I want to go over to Thayer Street and hang out there. Is Spats still there? My wife and I went to Classical High School together. She grew up in the East Side, over on President Avenue. So I’ll probably go for a run on Blackstone Boulevard. After the run I’ll go to Federal Hill and go to Scialo’s Bakery to get the good Italian pastries. Or maybe get a Wimpy Skimpy at Caserta’s. I got a pretty full calendar.

What are you going to miss about working with Jon Stewart? Well, he’s shorter than I am, so I’m going to miss feeling like an NBA player. He’s really like a little circus freak. He just runs around: “Jon, stand up!” “I am!” It’s one of those kind of things, you know? No, he’s got such a great mind, and he really deconstructs things in a clever, intelligent way. He’s great on camera, but it’s the way his brain works that gets the editorial content of that show. Plus, he buys us a lot of booze and drugs, and I’m going to miss that. No, he’s got an uncanny ability to see things a different way. Just being around somebody like that just makes you better.

Tell us about your upcoming shows at the Comedy Connection. There’s one show on Friday and two shows on Saturday. It’s in that old historic building on Warren Avenue. It’s a nice club. The new owners are doing a nice job with it. I haven’t been back in a while, so I’m looking forward to being back. I like it, because you get your different mixed ethnicities, you get some Portuguese people from New Bedford. My uncle Archie had a barber shop on Hope and Wickenden and he’d either play Red Sox games or Frank Sinatra. Just guys went there, so Playboy's on the table, that kind of thing. And he always had some pasta cooking in the back. Really old school. And there was a great Portuguese sweetbread place right next door to his place. I’ll probably go to Wickenden too, they have some good pubs there, good beer selection.

And then I got a bunch of Classical alums coming out. I hadn’t seen anybody in a long time and last year they honored me at Classical as a distinguished alumni with some other people — they’ll give it to anybody if they’ll give it to me. So that will be pretty cool. My wife’s going to try to come and my son so he can see the relatives.

Was your wife in the same grade at Classical? No, no. I was an upperclassman, she was lucky to have me. I was a senior and she was a junior and we met on a ski trip that our social studies teacher, Mr. Deutsch, was having. That reminds me, I’ve got to ask Mr. Deutsch to come, I haven’t seen him in a while. My wife was with another guy and I thought, oh, she was dating this guy. I didn’t want them to have too much time together so I basically just made sure that I insinuated myself into their relationship to the point where I was incredibly annoying. And then we got back, and went on a date to the Seekonk movie theater. And I tried to hold her hand as we were walking out of the building and she pulled it away, and I’m like, I am not taking this chick out for a pastrami sandwich. But I decided to take her out again anyway. So yeah. We used to make out in my mother’s Oldsmobile down by the Seekonk River. There, or we’d go in the parking lot of Mariani’s funeral home near Branch Avenue. I know it sounds maudlin, but it was a big parking lot, so you had a lot of privacy.

What are your upcoming projects? I’ve got a scripted half-hour sitcom that we’re developing based on my life story of being a former Wall Street guy and then leaving to be a comedian. I led a secret double life where I was a lawyer/banker by day and then I’d sneak out of work and go to dive bars. I got hired by Jay Leno to write jokes for him for “The Tonight Show” monologue while I was on Wall Street, and he encouraged me to start trying the jokes out before I did anything. I did and that totally hooked me into being a comedian. And then I was at a crossroads, what do I want to do with my life? I was really torn between sticking with the security of Wall Street or pursuing your passion, where there’s no money.  I eventually left, but there was a lot of doubt and angst. And so the show is based on a guy who is struggling with that. Because there’s a lot of people, I’ve found, who had a thing that they really wanted to do and were afraid to take the leap if they already had security in their life.

And then I have a TV talk show that I’ve developed based on my podcasts. I’ve had cool people on that I’m really proud of: Sugar Ray Leonard, Stephen Colbert, Paul McCartney. It’s funny how I met Paul McCartney. He was on the “Colbert Report” and he was doing a live show for us, and he had just finished rehearsal and was hanging out in the hallway, all alone. I‘m coming down the hallway and I see Paul McCartney in front of me, and I’m like, holy crap, that’s Paul McCartney, I should say hi to him. And then I’m like, well, I don’t want to bother him and I’m debating whether I should say hi in my head. And then I’m like, he’s alone in the hallway, no security. He’s like a gazelle on the Serengeti plain. I’m going to pounce. I gotta say hi.

Five or ten minutes go by, we’re talking about kids and touring and on the outside, I’m all smooth and hip, and on the inside, I’m like, “Oh my God, I’m talking to Paul McCartney!” And I say to myself, he should do my podcast. It’s Paul McCartney, I’m delusional. But what the hell, you only live once, let me ask him. So I say, would you do my podcast and he’s like, yeah, sure. Just like that. Now I’m completely thrown, because I didn’t expect him to say yes. He asked how would we do it and I got flustered, I said, I’ll come to London! And he said, we’re in New York, why would you have to come all the way to London? He asked if it’s easy to do. I said, yeah, it is. I actually said to Paul McCartney, you can do it on your phone, naked from your toilet. And then I go, I’ll just leave you alone and set it up with one of your assistants. And he goes, nah, they’ll just screw it up, I’ll do it. Just exchange numbers and we’ll figure it out.

An hour later the show’s over, I’m rushing over to go to "The Daily Show" taping across the street, my phone rings, I’m running late, I don’t have time to pick it up and let it go to voicemail and I have a voice message on my phone from Paul McCartney. {“Hi Paul, It’s Paul McCartney. I’m going to ring you back in five minutes to do this podcast thing….So if you’re there in five minutes time, you got me. OK, bye.”} I thought I had missed him forever, but he got back on the phone with me. It was surreal. We had a really cool conversation about writing music and being in the Beatles and everything else.

What’s the timetable? The talk show would be later this year, before the first of the year. The sitcom that we’re developing now would be for next year. The sitcom could be one of the major networks and the talk show would more likely be a cable network. (His podcasts are available through iTunes and his website.)

Any dream guests, co-stars? I want to have Lewis Black, who is a friend of mine, play the part on the sitcom of a crazy lawyer that was in my law firm. I would love to have Jon Stewart play something. He could play a tiny lawyer that gets people out of trouble. And for talk show guests, I want to have Jon Stewart. I’d love to interview Albert Brooks and Tim Burton, for actors. And comedically, if I could get Ben Stiller to even do a guest appearance, that would be awesome.

Paul Mecurio is appearing at the Comedy Connection in East Providence on Friday, May 1, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 2, at 8 and 10:15 p.m. Tickets are $15. 39 Warren Ave., East Providence, 401-438-8383,