Paul Morrissey has a lot of irons in the fire and likes it that way. His album, Paul Morrissey’s Back was released this week and he’s also launching an animated web series and a new podcast. Paul’s always been a busy kind of guy, first getting into stand-up while working as a local news sports anchor, then moving to New York to pursue both comedy and his Master’s Degree.
AmericasComedy.Com talked with him about all that (check out the bonus audio below with Paul discussing how he started out in comedy) while he was in the Bay Area, featuring for Tom Papa.
PM: I like working with people who are better than me. That’s one of those things once you start headlining clubs, you stop working with a lot of good people. I like working with people like Jim Gaffigan or Tom Papa who have a lot going on. When you work with people like that, it just makes you work a little bit harder than you normally would. Just living in LA or New York, that kinda keeps you on your toes because you’re always working with good people. But, really, how many people watch each other and see a guy’s whole act? So I like working full weeks with guys who are really, really good comics.
AC: Seems like you’re on the road a lot
PM Well, yeah, I’ve been making my living doing this, basically since 2000. But I try to spend as much time in LA as possible, working on other stuff. New York is great for comedy, but there just wasn’t room for all the other stuff. Like, I’m doing two shows tonight, then tomorrow I’m rehearsing for a sketch show, then there’s these writing projects and a podcast. So it just feels like people in LA do a lot more stuff, where in New York it’s more about pure stand-up, which I feel like I am. But even if you’re one of these guys writing 3-4 hours a day, you still have 8 hours to do other stuff. I just think creatively, it’s always better if you’re doing a couple different things.
AC: Yeah, I feel like podcasts haven’t taken off in New York like they have here.
PM: I was just talking to Ari (Shaffir) about that. I mean, podcasts have changed his career. And there’s that joke that everyone has a podcast now, but outside LA, people don’t know podcasts. So, I think it’s going to get way bigger before it becomes a thing that’s passe
AC: I gotta admit, I didn’t know you had a podcast until now.
PM: I just launched it last week. I just know a lot of people who have interesting stories. Like my buddy Steve Mazan, who just did his Dying to Do Letterman documentary, I had him on to tell that story [Episode 1]. There’s this other guy who went to do shows in China and ended up doing the Miss China pageant an hour before, they were going to be performing in front of Chinese communist government officials and it’s their job not to laugh, and they decided maybe comedy isn’t such a good idea. His agent had used the 1930’s term “Entertainer” so they said, “you guys can just sing or dance instead of doing comedy, right?” and he was like “No. No. We don’t do any of that. We just tell jokes.” So these two idiots ended up singing “Hello, I Love You” by The Doors and “My Girl” by The Temptations. There’s video. I didn’t believe him at first.
AC: What about you, do you have any crazy stories?
PM: I was just talking about this the other day.. you know that Kevin Bacon game? Somebody was saying “Yeah, have you ever traced that?” and I said “I’ve performed for Kevin Bacon.” I was at The [Hollywood] Improv and Kevin Bacon was in the audience. I think he was there for… it was like Jim Norton, me… it was one of those good lineups on a Comedy Juice show. And I was in the back and you recognize him right away. And this is such a weird Hollywood moment. I went outside because my mom was calling and I thought something was wrong, so I answered it. And just as I’m answering the phone, Kevin Bacon comes walking out to his car. And he’s like “Hey, great stuff tonight, man, I really loved the ice cream joke.” and it turned into a two or three sentence thing where I wondered if I should put the phone down to talk. And then my mom was all annoyed, “Who are you talking to?” and I said “Kevin Bacon” and she didn’t believe me. It’s so weird, all the stuff you liked when you were 13 is the stuff that still impresses you now. Like when you see Roddy Piper or a sitcom star from that era.
AC: So, let’s talk a little bit about the album, where did you record it?
PM: We recorded it in Appleton, WI, which sounds little weird but is actually a really great club. The guy who owns the club used to work for Jim Gaffigan’s manager and he moved out there and the club is run exactly how a great comedian would run a club. The lighting is perfect, the sound is perfect, the checks don’t drop until after the show is over, it’s just awesome. So, I recorded it there. And I don’t know how you feel about comedy albums, but I like the ones where it feels like you snuck into the club on the night of a really good show. It’s not super packed or like Carnegie Hall with over the top reactions. And, you know, there’s gonna be a couple of idiots you have to tell to shut up, there’s gonna be a couple of jokes that don’t work as well as you thought, there’s going to be a dropped glass and you’re going to talk to the crowd a little because it’s a live show. That’s what I really like. If you listen to Steve Martin’s Let’s Get Small, I think they just put a recorder in the back of the room on a table and you can hear glasses clinking and that’s the album that I really loved. When he recorded that one in an arena five years later, there’s no intimacy. There are TV sets where everything is perfect, but I think CD’s are a medium through which real comedy fans will listen to a guy they like and they’ll like that it’s a little bit different. That’s why I left a lot of stuff in. I even had to tell a guy to shut the fuck up at one point, which is rare for me, but that’s part of a live show. The important thing was just getting what it’s like to be at a live show. Everyone in there was enjoying what was going on, that’s the feeling that you want. Everyone in there was wishing their friends could be at the show. And this is the CD, “Oh yeah, you weren’t there, but you have to listen to this.”
About the Author: Amy Hawthorne is an LA-based stand-up and writer and the founder of ComedyGroupie.com. She is convinced that the food industry is being unduly influenced by Big Avocado.