Paul Mecurio Returns to Rhody to Perform Off-Broadway One-Man Show

Don’t miss Permission to Speak at United Theatre, Westerly on March 9


Emmy and Peabody Award-winning comedian/actor and Rhode Island native Paul Mecurio, a writer and recurring performer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, is bringing his show Permission to Speak to Westerly’s UNITED Theatre on Saturday, March 9. But don’t expect a traditional stand-up comedy routine; Permission to Speak is a one-of-a-kind show where Mecurio invites audience members to share their stories on stage. During the show, he remains at the center of the dialog, guiding the conversation with humor and compassion.

Providence born-and-raised, Mecurio worked at his parent’s furniture store as a teenager and believes growing up in the city gave him a leg up in the entertainment business. “We had to work in the business, we didn’t have any choice,” he says. “I was selling furniture when I was 10 or 12, so you learn how to talk to people.”

Mecurio grew up in an Italian neighborhood on Charles Street, and attended Classical High School, where he met kids from all over the city. “Rhode Island is a microcosm of the world,” Mecurio explains. “You can function anywhere if you grew up here. As a small state, there’s an instant familiarity we have with each other, or we think we have with each other. It’s a no-nonsense place without pretension.”

His show, which has run off-Broadway and now tours around the country, evolved organically. “I can’t say I sat in a room and planned this,” says Mecurio, who graduated from Providence College before leaving the state for Georgetown Law School. In the late 1990s, after selling a joke to Jay Leno, he took a bold step away from an established career in corporate law to perform stand-up comedy. He’s been at it ever since.

Initially, his conversations with the audience were a type of crowd work, a strategy comedians use to warm up the room. “I’ll see that you have a beard, but I don’t really care about your beard,” says Mecurio. “I just have a two-minute bit that I want to get to about beards. But I found that if you ask more questions beyond the surface, you get these amazing stories.” Topics can range from accounts of first dates to stories about coming out to your parents. “Some people want to tell their story, and some people need to tell their story.”

As Permission to Speak took on more theatrical elements, a production team including award-winning puppeteer and filmmaker Frank Oz joined the show. In addition, 23-time Emmy Award Winner for Production Design, Jim Fenhagen – known for his work on late-night TV, the Olympics, and five Super Bowls – and animator JJ Sedelmaier, the artist behind ground-breaking animation on MTV’s Beavis & Butt-Head and Saturday Night Live’s “TV Funhouse” cartoons are part of the project.

“The premise of the show is we’re nameless and faceless and sort of generally disconnected from each other, but if we share stories and get together for a time, we realize we have more in common than we think and maybe we come together and connect a little bit,” says Mecurio. The result is a different show every night. The stories are compelling, unpredictable, and intended to highlight commonalities. “I really care about these conversations. When you start to hear these stories, it’s just incredible.” Learn more at and follow @paulmecurio



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