Comedian Paul C. Morrissey’s first love was sports
October 24, 2014
Stand-up comedian Paul C. Morrissey called The Park Record earlier this week from his car. It was a Thursday afternoon and he was stuck in traffic on Interstate 10 after auditioning for a commercial.
"Sometimes you walk in and you know you’re not what they’re looking for," Morrissey said with a laugh. "The good thing about stand up is you look at all those things I couldn’t control in the audition and know when I go on stage tonight, I will be in control."
Morrissey will find some control in Park City when he performs at the Egyptian Theatre on Friday, Oct. 31, and Saturday, Nov. 1.
The comic is looking forward to his return to town.
"I was there during the Sundance Film Festival last year when ‘Sound City’ was there," Morrissey said. "I didn’t know the Egyptian Theatre also presented live acts. I just saw films there."
Morrissey has been a stand-up comic for nearly 15 years and this past July, made his debut on "The Late Show with David Letterman."
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"I was a big fan of stand up when I was growing up, but I never would have believed it if someone told the 12-year-old me that I would be on David Letterman and he would announce my name," Morrissey said. "When I was young, it was like you could tell jokes, but if you told anyone you wanted to be a comedian, it was like telling them you want to be a wizard."
But at that time, Morrissey didn’t want to be a comic. He wanted to play sports.
"Even though I’m pretty short, all I did when I was growing up in Owego, in Upstate New York, was play basketball," he said. "My dad was a coach and I was involved in sports almost all my life."
Morrissey enjoyed basketball in college and made a good college career out of coaching and playing.
"The only options I had after college was to play in Ireland or play for the Washington Generals, which is the team that always gets beat by the Harlem Globetrotters," he said. "I took basketball too seriously then, but now I look back at it and wish I would have played for the Generals.
"I had a couple of friends who did it, but I thought I couldn’t be a professional loser." Morrissey said with laugh. "If I had known I would have ended up as stand-up comic, the experience would have been helpful."
During that same time, Morrissey thought it would be fun to work for ESPN.
"I saw that those guys can talk about sports and can be funny once in a while," he said. "So after an internship at a Fox station, I landed my first on-air job at a station in Chico, California, where I did news stories and sports."
Morrissey, who didn’t know what he was doing, made the best of things.
"I worked out of bureau and I was in this little house with a microwave dish on the roof," he said. "I would show Friday night high school football highlights and then I’d have to do two or three news stories."
When he asked where he could find the hard news stories, his bosses replied, "That’s your job."
"I said, ‘This is Chico, California. Nothing happens here,’" Morrissey said. "’Do I cause a car accident on purpose?’"
When he did find those stories, Morrissey didn’t broadcast like a regular newscaster.
"I would do something like Jon Stewart does on ‘The Daily Show’ does now," he said. "I told stories in a dry delivery and tried not to be too mean to people so they wouldn’t know I was making fun of them."
While his boss liked Morrissey, the station owner didn’t.
Around the time he was fired, Morrissey began going to comedy clubs.
"I never went to a comedy club until I was 24 or 25, and when I did, the woman who ran the club asked if I wanted to go on stage for the open mic," he said. "I told her I was just here to watch the show and she told me about a comedy class."
The woman turned out to be Karen Anderson, who would become the multiple Emmy Award-winning head writer for "Ellen DeGeneres Show."
"I took a class and started doing stand up on Mondays and Tuesdays on my days off," Morrissey said.
One thing he learned was working in live TV every night was just like doing improv comedy.
"I would introduce basketball highlights and someone would say in the earpiece, ‘We don’t have them because the tape melted’ and you have to figure out a way to get through the next thing without looking too rattled," he said. "So that was probably the best training I could have ever had."
That thought was confirmed when Morrissey landed his first TV showcase as a comic on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
"When I walked onto the stage and saw the lights and cameras, it was like the bureau I worked at, so it was very comforting in a way," he said.
In 2013, Morrissey was invited to perform at several festivals including Montreal Just For Laughs and the Great American Comedy Festival with Drew Carey and Steven Wright.
He was also one of only five English-speaking comedians selected to perform at the Montreux Comedy Festival in Switzerland.
"I perform in as many different venues as I can and if I don’t do well, I don’t blame any one but myself," Morrissey said. "I’ve learned that as a comic, you try not to be too universal, but also try to tell jokes that people can understand.
"Switzerland was like that," he said. "That festival is mostly French and they really want to widen the audience. So they picked five comics to do an English-speaking show."
The Just for Laughs performance in Montreal was also at a French-speaking festival.
"That was nice, because some of the French-speaking comics were fans of mine and wanted me to do the show," Morrissey said. "They told me people wouldn’t understand a lot, but they would know that I was on TV and it would be great for them to say I was part of the show."
Although he was hesitant to do it, Morrissey went for it and had another comic translate his jokes in real time on stage.
"It was hilarious," Morrissey said. "There were words he didn’t know how to translate, so we winged it. I was like a comedy improv thing."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present stand-up comedians Paul C. Morrissey and Key Lewis on Friday, Oct. 31, and Saturday, Nov. 1, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $32 and they can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.