Being a successful New York lawyer gave Paul Mecurio a pretty good paycheck each week, but there was no real passion in his life.
Then, he had a chance meeting with Jay Leno.
"I met him at a private function, and I asked him, 'hey, I don't know, do you ever need any jokes?'" said Mecurio. "I gave him a few and he called me the next day and hired me; $50 a joke. When I first heard him do one of my jokes on TV it just blew me away. It was the most powerful thing to ever happen to me."
In 1995, Mecurio said good-bye to his legal career and began concentrating on doing standup. He'll get into some of that story when he performs his comedy routine this weekend for two shows on Friday and two more on Saturday at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Crossgates Mall.
A Rhode Island native who went to Providence University and then Georgetown Law School, Mecurio is a pretty busy entertainer these days. Along with his standup routine, Mecurio works on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," appears as a commentator on CBS, CNN and MSNBC, and also is the host of his own podcast, "The Paul Mecurio Show." Among his guests have been Paul McCartney, Bryan Cranston, Judd Apatow, Rob Reiner and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to name just a few.
"It's a one-hour interview show that I usually do by phone, and I've had some pretty great people," said Mecurio. "I really think the one-hour long interview format can be a really dynamic thing."
His work with Colbert usually involves him warming up the audience prior to the star's opening monologue. Earlier in his career, Mecurio got to know Colbert when they were both working on "The Daily Show," with John Stewart. Mecurio won an Emmy and a Peabody Award for his writing work with Stewart, who also used Mecurio as a "Daily Show" correspondent.
"I've appeared on late night TV quite a bit and I've been on with Colbert multiple times," he said. "Most of the time I do the warm up for the show. I'm not doing a lot of writing for the show, but this way I keep my hand in it and it's great to be a part of that show. I might contribute something now and then, but I'm doing all these other things right now, so I don't have the time to do a lot of significant writing for the show."
Mecurio also found the time to be in the 2016 film, "Chuck," with Liev Schriber, about the life of boxer Chuck Wepner, and is currently preparing a script for a one-man show he hopes to perform on Broadway.
"It's a comedic show that involves the audience so it's very unique," said Mecurio. "It's not standup, it's something different. I kind of integrate the audience into it, so it's something that really hasn't been done before."
While Stewart and Colbert both played a key role in Mecurio's career, his success as a performer begins with his chance encounter with Leno.
"After I started writing jokes for Jay, he told me I should really try the jokes out before I sent them to him," remembered Mecurio. "I asked him, 'well, how do i do that?' and he told me to start doing them myself in public. That's how my double life began. I would work as a lawyer during the day, doing all these huge merger deals, and then I would do standup at night. It was a crazy schedule."
It was during this double life that Mecurio's father suddenly passed away.
"My father had a heart attack and dies, so I went back to Providence to help out with the family furniture store," said Mecurio. "My mother was stubborn about things. She grew up during the Depression so she had a different way of doing things. It was like living in 'Sanford and Son.' It just wasn't for me, so I headed back to New York and sort of unraveled my life. I took a leave from my job as an attorney, and I moved out of my nice apartment into a rooming house for $327 a month.
"But doing shows at these little comedy clubs had more power over me than doing these high-profile merger deals," Mecurio added. "Here I am telling my little jokes at night, performing in some real dives in the worst part of town, but that's where I really got my life together. I started doing more comedy clubs, and got a big break when I was hired onto 'The Daily Show' as a writer. I had no idea that show was going to take off the way it did."
As a standup, Mecurio says he keeps it pretty simple, and mostly free of politics.
"There are moments that I get into politics, but it's a small part of what I do," he said. "I'm not preachy and I'm not into attacking people. It's more about me and how we all get along together in this world. It's how we manage things."
WHERE: The Funny Bone Comedy Club, Crossgates Mall, Albany
WHEN: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: (518) 313-7484, or visit www.albany.funnybone.com