By: Paulanne Simmons
November 1, 2018: According to Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning comedian Paul Mecurio, “Everybody has a story, and if you don’t have anybody to talk to, you end up talking to yourself.” To keep people talking to each other, he has developed a show, Paul Mecurio’s Permission to Speak, based on the premise that the story people have to tell will be interesting, amusing and sometimes even quite moving for others.
The show, which officially opened July 23 at the Jerry Orbach Theatre, has now transferred to Actors Temple Theatre where it will run until the end of the year.
For the most part, Mecurio has an uncanny sense of who in the audience has an unusual story. This may not be obvious to the average person. A staid older couple may be swingers. While the guy with piercings and tattoos teaches English to middle-schoolers.
The night I saw Permission to Speak, it started slowly but picked up when Mecurio began talking to an older couple that had met on match.com. Turns out the gentleman was on his third wife, the first two having had serious mental problems. In fact one of them tried to kill her mother-in-law by rear-ending her car so it would go through a red light. His new wife confessed she’d previously made several unsatisfactory matches using the site, the chief issue being “lots of guys living with their ex because they couldn’t afford their own apartment.”
Despite the commercials, she said online dating is a pretty awful experience. “It’s like real estate,” she offered. “You’re looking for a house, but you can’t afford what you really want.”
Not surprisingly, a fair number of people in the audience are tourists. Mecurio called up a couple visiting New York City from Kansas, where the woman said she was “the only liberal.” In New York City, she took her husband to a gay bar because that’s where all the gay actors in musical theater hang out and she wanted to hear them sing.
Her husband’s story was not as funny but very poignant. He had been adopted ten days after his birth but had recently gotten in touch with his birth mother, whose wealthy and influential family had forced her to give up her baby.
Perhaps the key to Mecurio’s success is his diverse background. After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, he worked in investment banking, mergers and acquisitions. Then one night he met Jay Leno, sent him some jokes, and as they say… the rest is history. Mecurio has worked with Jon Stewart, Colin Quinn and currently, Stephen Colbert as the warm-up comic for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Toward the end of the show, Mecurio switched roles and allowed himself to be interviewed by a woman in the audience. She proved quite adept, at one point inviting his wife onstage. Mecurio proved that he is indeed a good sport. After all, when you’re doing improv, you have to expect the unexpected.
Paul Mecurio’s Permission to Speak *****
Actors Temple Theatre
339 West 47 Street
Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs- 8 pm until the end of the year.
Visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200 or call Actors Temple Theatre at 212-947-3499.