Interview: Paul Mecurio
Mon, 22 Jul 2013 09:31:10
Paul McCartney Photos
Paul McCartney Videos
Paul Mecurio's podcast, The Paul Mecurio Show, certainly boasts the kind of hilarity you'd expect from the Emmy Award-winning comedian. At the same time, he offers deep perspective into some of the world's biggest celebrities by asking truly enlightening and thought-provoking questions. He's bringing back the long form interview with a sense of humor, and it's beyond refreshing. You might know him from The Daily Show w/Jon Stewart, but the best way to meet him is via the podcast. He just unveiled an interview with none other than Sir Paul McCartney, and he's got some other big ones in the pipeline. Plus, he's developing not one, but three television shows. He's rising up as one of the most important voices in comedy…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Paul Mecurio shares what it was like talking to Paul McCartney, discusses his podcast, upcoming television shows, and more!
So, let's cut right to it. What was it like talking to Sir Paul McCartney?
Oh my God, it was crazy. I ran into him in New York City. I saw him, and I was like, "Holy shit, that's Paul McCartney". He was standing up leaning against a wall, waiting for a bus. There was nobody around him and no security. My whole world slowed down. It was like everything went into slow-motion. In my head, I was thinking, "Should I say hello to him or not? I don't want to bother him". Finally, I said, "Fuck it, I'm never going to meet this guy again I should at least say hi to him". I went up to him, put my hand out, and said, "It's an honor to meet you. I'm a huge fan". He replied, "It's nice to meet you too". I told him I'm a comedian, and he said he loved comedy. He started talking to me about comedy and how he admires comedians. He likes that comedians can spin a joke into a way to comment on something. I told him I'm a huge fan of music and I can't do anything musically, but I'm amazed how musicians can write songs. The whole time I was talking to him, I was waiting for some security guy to come over and shoot me in the leg for even looking at him [Laughs]. Nobody came over! Then, we started talking about touring and how music and comedy are similar in some ways. Granted, I'm not in that category or anything! We were talking about how we both have kids, trying to be a parent, and being on a road. On the outside, I was trying to look cool, while inside, I was screaming, "I'm fucking talking to Paul McCartney!" I'm like one of those sixteen-year-old girls you'd see screaming at the concerts in the sixties [Laughs]. Then, I got really close and I thought, "This guy looks amazing!" I became like the "close talker" in that Seinfeld episode. We kept talking and I decided to end the conversation because I didn't want to be the guy who stays too long at the party. By the way, I so wanted a picture and an autograph, but I didn't want to be that guy so I tried to respect the lines. I said, "Look, I've got to run. It was great meeting you". I want you to understand how important I am. I cut off a conversation with Paul McCartney [Laughs].
That's as important as it gets…
I went into the bathroom, locked the door, and started hyper-ventilating. I thought, "I should ask him to do my podcast because I'm certifiably insane and Paul McCartney, arguably the most significant musician of the last two centuries, will talk to me". I get up the balls to go back downstairs. I knocked on the door and said, "Excuse me. I always wanted to interview a musician, and I think you qualify as one". He laughed. I went on, "I know you're huge and I'm nobody". He said, "You're not nobody! What's up?" I asked, "Would you be willing to do my podcast?" He was like, "Sure". It was that fast. It didn't even take a beat. Then, I was completely thrown off. It's like in high school when there's the girl that's so hot you never think she'll fuck you. You get the balls to ask. She says yes, and you don't know what to do. That was me. I started stammering, "Oh, okay!" He could tell I was struggling, "Well, how do we do it?" I told him I'd fly to him. He goes, "Alright, let's set up". I told him I'd set it up with his assistant. This was the most surreal thing. He looked at me in the eye, and he goes, "No, you and I will do it. We'll coordinate. It will get too complicated with other people. Let's exchange numbers". Now, I'm trying to stay super cool. I'm writing my number down on a piece of paper and giving it to Paul McCartney.
People asked me why I left Wall Street to be a comedian. That's fucking it right there! That would never have happened on Wall Street. He takes the piece of paper and goes, "Alright, when I call you, we'll have to do it right away because I have a tight schedule!" I figured he was being nice. Just to be safe, I called the guys who run the studio and said, "Just a heads up, I might have an interview with Paul McCartney". They told me to call if I do and hopefully the studio wouldn't be tied up. Well, we do the show. An hour later, my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. Then, I picked it up, and it was fucking Paul McCartney going, "Hey, it's Paul McCartney. I'm ready to do the podcast. Call me back in the next five minutes if you can". I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows because I just screened a call from fucking Paul McCartney! What was I thinking? I never thought I'd get him back on the phone. I got him back, and I told him I had to get a line and would call him back. He said, "Yeah, sure!" Now, I'm making Paul McCartney wait. I called the guys in L.A. and they didn't have a studio so I told them, "Do you fucking hear me? I have Paul McCartney on the line!" I was walking across the street screaming at them, writing questions I want to ask Paul McCartney on a notebook. I'm pretty sure Charlie Rose doesn't do his interview preparation this way. They couldn't get a line so they called me back. Paul told me he'd wait. We finally got a recorded line. Of course, the first thing I asked him was how many chicks he's fucked since he was sixteen [Laughs]. No, I'm just kidding. I was true to my word. I kept all of the questions about process and how he worked as an individual musician and the bands he's been in. First, I asked him how he develops his individual persona and merges that into a band without losing himself in the mix. He started immediately talking about The Beatles. I asked him about process and writing and where they got the balls to do a 180 from album to album without worrying about losing their fan base. He told me about a "Beatles Sandwich". He said they were very close. They started out driving around in a van together with no money. The window got busted out one night, and it was so cold they had to sleep on top of each other in the van to stay warm like a "Beatles Sandwich". It all happened within two hours. It was the most surreal moment of my life, and he couldn't have been a nice guy. No ego. He was totally affable, cool, and generous.
On your podcast, you relate to people in a very honest way. You keep the conversation going with insight and a lot of humor. There's a great message conveyed. You strike a great balance by encouraging the interviewee's personality to shine through.
I'm very impressed with that observation. I'm going to start telling people you actually have your shit together [Laughs]. No, I appreciate you saying that. It's exactly what I'm trying to do. I didn't want to just be another comedian with another podcast hanging out with other podcasts talking about comedy all the time. Because the stakes are higher in entertainment across the board, the long-form interview has become something of a lost art. Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley do it. For the podcast, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I'd talk to certain high-profile people but get behind their public persona. I want listeners to see how these people got started and the experiences they had. I wanted to stay out of the way and let it be about them and not me. I try to go in different directions than other people go. The Mythbusters guys were really cool. I didn't want to do something typical with McCartney and ask, "What was it like doing drugs and hanging with John Lennon?" I really wanted it to be like, "How the fuck do you hear 'Eleanor Rigby' in your head or 'Hey Jude?' I can't do that!" That's part of my methodology.
You want to develop that connection so the interviewee can feel comfortable. You take a unique avenue that's still human and real.
From the beginning, I struggled with, "How funny should I try to be?" Obviously, from this conversation, you can tell I'm brilliantly funny [Laughs]. I thought, "How do I put a cap on that volcano?" You really can't [Laughs]. It's nature wanting to come out. Nah, because I'm a comedian, I didn't know if people would tune in expecting a laugh a minute. I figured if they wanted to see me be funny they'd come to see me do standup or watch me on TV. For this, I figured I'd let the comedy come through the relationship with the person on the phone. I'd just listen and respond and not get locked into a script. I usually have things I want to ask about. Invariably, I know it's a good interview if I don't get to all of them. It just runs. I wanted to treat Paul McCartney like a regular guy because I didn't want to get frozen. He told me the band stopped touring in 1966 because they couldn't hear themselves play. The screaming of the girls was too much so they just went into the studio. A lot of people had written them off when they were making Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in London. They were laughing while reading remarks because nobody in the world knew they were creating this seminal album. When he was talking about the record, I had a little bit of a hard-on [Laughs]. I tend to do the interviews naked. It makes me feel more free and in-the-moment [Laughs]. No, he was telling me about it, and I had to shake myself like, "Holy fuck, he's telling me about Sgt. Pepper's". In my act, I like interacting with the audience. Everyone has an interesting story. It's about getting them comfortable.
Who's typically on your playlist?
I'm a big Tom Petty guy. I'm big into The White Stripes and The Who. I'm all over the place. I love The Cars. I saw Petty recently, and he was awesome. I like current stuff like Imagine Dragons and the classics. I could listen to Bing Crosby, Green Day, or Metallica before I go on. It just depends on the mood.
What's next for you? The podcast has been taking up a lot of my time because we've got some other great guests coming up. Stephen Colbert is coming up next very shortly as well as Rob Coddry. I've got three television shows in development. One is a scripted half-hour based on my life story. I was a lawyer and investment banker on Wall Street. I left to be a comedian. I was writing jokes as a hobby, and I sold some to Jay Leno. He did them on The Tonight Show, and it blew my head off my shoulders. I lived this secret double life where I was a lawyer by day and a comedian by night. I'd sneak off and do those open mic nights in the middle of work during dinner break. My third show, I ended up on stage after some guy got stabbed in the bar. I commented on how I always wanted to follow a stashing, and the guy thought I was making fun of him and threw all of these bloody napkins at me! They stuck to my white Brooks Brothers shirt. A normal person would have gotten off stage. I stayed. I got rid of the napkins. I had this big bloodstain. I did my act, and no one was paying attention. Finally the guy came on stage and yells, "Everybody shut the fuck up! This guy's trying to tell jokes". He was yelling so hard blood would squirt out of his neck. I finished my set. I got back in the car and went to work. The deal blew up, and the senior partner was screaming at me. I was standing in the conference room with a file folder trying to hold this bloody mess. He was like, "Why do you have a bloodstain on your shirt?" Now, I was caught. I was fucked. All of a sudden, one of the other lawyers goes, "What kind of shirt is that?" I said, "It's Brooks Brothers, why?" He said, "I know how to get blood out of a Brooks Brothers shirt. It's lemon juice". Another guy says, "No, Armani, that's the shirt you can get blood out of". I thought, "What the hell are these guys doing?" I ran out of the conference room pretending to take a phone call. That was my life. Now, we're developing it as a sitcom. It's got that question, "Do you follow your passion or stick to the career?" A lot of people face that same dilemma. It's been exciting working on that. We've got a great director, showrunner, and studio attached. I've got a talk show I'm working on based on the interviews I'm doing. Then, there's an animated show about disgraced athletes who have been kicked out of sports for womanizing and dog fighting. Now, they've formed a band of dysfunctional superheroes who fight crime. They have each other, and they live in a luxury skybox of a sports stadium.
Paul Mecurio and Paul McCartney Talk Sgt. Pepper's
Paul Mecurio and Paul McCartney Talk Leadership in The Beatles and Wings
Check out all things Paul Mecurio at his official site!