Paul Mecurio: When comedy and sports collide

By | August 13, 2009 at 2:16 pm | No comments | Features | Tags: , ,

Paul Mecurio

Comedian Paul Mecurio isn’t much of an athlete, but he knows where to find the humor in pro ballers, fighters and beyond. Turns out, you don’t have to look too far. The proof is in his new HBO web series Got No Game with Paul Mecurio.

As a founding writer for The Daily Show, Paul Mecurio has skewered presidential candidates, mainstream media and greedy members of the medical profession, winning Emmys and a Peabody award in the process. As a stand-up comic, he’s a stage veteran who’s covered pretty much every topic in pretty much every respected venue across the country. In his new HBO web series, Got No Game with Paul Mecurio, the comedian settles his focus on the world of sports. According to Paul, someone’s gotta do it.

A while back you produced a pilot called Sports Central. How did that show lead to HBO and Got No Game?
Well, I’m basically a whore. There, you got it out of me. You’re an intrepid reporter. Actually, HBO Sports’ Ross Greenburg saw it and liked it, thought it was a great idea, and with the help of Kendall Reid, and their digital media department, we were able to produce this series. And there’s just this feeling that this is a big part of our culture – sports – and nobody’s satirizing it. And who better to satirize it than a guy who failed at every sport he ever tried?

So you’re not at all athletic?
If you consider doing shots of Jack Daniels and smoking while you’re doing sports athletic, I am a gold medalist. Curling is my sport, because curling for me is nothing more than bowling for people who can’t bear to part with the ball.

Would you consider hitting the gym to be your sport?
No, I’d consider mocking people as they go to the gym to be my sport. Like, ‘Hey, idiot, why are you doing that when you could be doing what I’m doing, which is watching TV and drinking beer?’

You have a son, right? Are you a big sports guy when it comes to parenting?
My son’s into sports. At first he played soccer. First of all, parents whose kids play soccer are out of their minds. And kids who play soccer, at seven or eight years old, they’re like a bunch of drunk midgets. The ball hits them everywhere except in the foot. But the parents were the ones that intimidated me. Parents live through their kids when it comes to sports, especially soccer. There was this one guy, he was fine at first and then literally a minute later he’s going, ‘Kick the ball, Billy. Kick the damn ball! You’re an idiot! And your mother’s sleeping with the mailman. Kick the ball!’ A kid’s team lost a soccer game once and I saw the kid standing in the parking lot watching his father drive away with a kid from the winning team. That’s how intense it’s become.

And you know I’m a Red Sox fan. And you know, Ortiz has been outed on that list for steroid use, along with Manny Ramirez. And that hurts us as fans, and it taints the 2004 championship because they were both on that team. So now what does the city of Boston have? I mean, this is a city that was suffering for self esteem. The last time it felt good about itself was in the Coolidge administration. Now, what do they have to fall back on to feel good about themselves? Their claim to fame up to that point is that they were the last team in baseball to integrate.

The fact that Manny Ramirez is on that list, especially has to hurt.
My thing about Manny Ramirez is I’m not sure that he even took steroids because if he took steroids with the way he plays the outfield, he just wasn’t paying attention. He tripped, he fell, a needle ended up in his ass. It was an accident. He didn’t intend for that. Also, there’s this big mystery in Boston. You know, every time Big Poppy hit a home run he’d cross the plate, he’d pound his chest and he’d point two fingers up to the sky. And everybody’s like, ‘Who’s he paying tribute to?’ And now it’s clear that it’s his dead drug dealer.

So basically, these guys and guys like them have made it easy to mock sports. Take Plaxico Burress: his whole thing with the gun. [ed. note: Burress was indicted Aug 3. on weapons charges after accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a club in November. He had stuffed his gun down his sweatpants.]

First of all, Velcro! All he needed was a little Velcro and that would have solved his problem. And you know the NRA changed its slogan to, ‘You can have my gun when you uneasily unclasp it from my cold dead Velcro hand.’

And then you’ve got Michael Vick coming back, or maybe coming back. We don’t know. By the way, with Vick, they’re gonna get it out of him. They’re just gonna hook his testicles up to a car battery. He better not lose either because he’s gonna get put down, or at the very least, chained to a fence for a day. But you know you look at the news cycle in sports, and all of that came out over the course of five days. So there’s so much going on in sports and nobody’s satirizing it on a regular basis. That’s part of what we want to do, and also just have fun with it.

Like inhaling helium with ring announcer Michael Buffer? (see video below)
Wasn’t that great? It blew me away that he did it. Everybody was saying, ‘You’ll never get him to do this,’ and I was like, ‘I’ll talk to him, we’ll relax him and get him to do it.’ And he did it. He turned out to be a really cool guy. There’s another piece with Jim Lampley. He just went off. I had like a dozen questions prepared, and I got to two of them, three of them at the most. Just incredible, he was great. We’ve also got some sketches coming out—like did you ever wonder what’s going on in the replay booth during a football review play? And we’ve got another piece coming up about race in sports.

You come to sports with a stand-up background. A lot of comics say that sports can be a tough topic onstage. With the wrong crowd it can be like talking about a movie no one’s seen.
If you’re talking about a particular team, I can understand that. But if you’re talking about big issues in sports, which is really what I’m more interested in focusing on in this series – steroids, gunplay, salaries – everybody understands that stuff. You don’t have to follow sports to understand that. You know, Rashard Lewis from the Orlando Magic just got busted for using performance-enhancing drugs. It’s everywhere. If you go into Cincinnati and you start doing jokes about the Oakland Athletics, then yeah, there’s going be a disconnect.

You taped a few episodes in Las Vegas during that big fight week. What was the most interesting thing you learned during that trip?
The biggest shock to me was being in the arena during the Manny Pacquiao- Ricky Hatton fight when Hatton got knocked down, and the blood curdling desire from people screaming. It was a different kind of yell than at football games or basketball games. You know, at a football game if your team scores you go, ‘Yay!’ This was like, ‘Kill him!’ It was the closest thing to what I think it would have been like at the Roman Coliseum.

So it was like the Roman thumbs down?
Close to the thumbs down. I actually did get a bath with several other men just to get a sense of what it was like back then. But seriously, if you haven’t been, even if you’re not a boxing fan, go to one big-time match. It’s people from all different social strata. We’re talking rich people, poor people, people in the middle, and they all just go insane in a really scary way.

Like cheering when the bad guy gets blown up in a movie but with a real person?
Yeah, exactly! If they would’ve let the crowd into the ring to finish him off, they would have.

Well, it sounds like Got No Game is a fun show not only to watch but also to make.
Our goal is the 18-35 year-old male demographic. We want to get them to watch this just before they switch over to transvestiteporn.com.

Check out Got No Game with Paul Mecurio at hbo.com/gotnogame. New episodes premiere every Friday through Sept. 4. For more info on Paul, check out paulmecurio.com.

About the Author

Brendan McLaughlin

Brendan is a comedian and writer based in Brooklyn, NY.