- Paul Scheer
- 29 years old
- Grew-up on Long Island: "Specifically: Huntington, Northport, Central Islip, and Bayshore-My parents weren’t in the military we just had a fascination with their constantly uprooted lifestyle." Now lives in "Hell’s Kitchen (or as the real estate brokers say Clinton)."
- Actor and comedian. Eventual Playbill bio to read: "Paul was introduced to the world simply as "Usher," and released his debut album of the same name in 1994. The first single, "Think of You," gained Usher notoriety and reached gold status. In 1995, he recorded a national holiday jingle for Coca-Cola. He also joined several top male R&B vocalists to form Black Men United for the single "You Will Know," featured on the Jason's Lyric soundtrack. His third album, 8701 (2001), moved him from a teen pop star to a sultry R&B singer. In early 2004, Arista released the single "Yeah!" produced by Lil Jon and guesting Ludacris. The addictive, lightly crunk cut fast became a club and radio favorite. By the time the Usher full-length Confessions dropped later that March, "Yeah!" had hit the top of the Billboard charts. The album itself was Usher's most mature work to date and won the Grammy for best contemporary R&B album 2004."
First things first: Exactly how "tremendous" is your ego?
Before we begin, I must state that all my answers are being communicated to and typed by my assistant (Gerard) via GPS phone as I’m hovering over the Grand Canyon. Which is not impressive at all and sadly pales in comparison to what it is like to live my life. I’ve already forgotten your question, and since I don’t like to hear things repeated to me, I’m just going to answer skim milk.
Did you always want to be a comedian? Were you the funny kid in school growing up?
When I was growing up, I didn’t even realize that being a comedian was a job that you could have. I used to love watching Saturday Night Live and telling everyone that when I grew up I wanted to be Eddie Murphy. Which was tough because I’m not black, and my parents had a strict no cursing rule. However, I had a great red leather suit that I’ve never been able to use.
I don’t think I was the typical class clown, making fart noises and stuff like that. I was more subtle, and opted to whisper my observations to people around me, although most of the fights I got in throughout school were based off of those comments. I went to Catholic School for most my life, and I remember a nun overheard me say something snarky. She threw me up against a locker, and the force was so hard she cut the back of my head, but if it were now, I’d totally be able to take her.
How does performing improv differ from your work on VH1's Best Week Ever? Which is harder: performing for 30 people you can see or making sarcastic comments on TV for millions of people you can't see? (You can’t see us, right?)
I think whenever you are on stage it’s harder because you are working off the energy in the room and you immediately know if you are bombing or if it’s working, but you also can switch it up on the spot. But when we tape Best Week Ever, it’s much more relaxed. Not everything needs to hit. Plus you have the ability to be edited to just a sound byte, and all the people at that show -- the writers, producers, and editors -- are all trying to make you look good. So it makes everything you say seem perfectly off the cuff and great, but the truth is, for every funny sound byte there are 12 more that didn’t make it. Conversely, after a bad show people tend to forget about it but if you are in a bad movie or TV show it lives forever. We just did ASSSSCAT in Central Park for 4,000 people, and that was really nerve-wracking because you are out of your element, and you are wondering, Are people going get behind this? Long form requires a little more patience than the stuff you’d see on Whose Line…, but it worked really well, and it was such a relief, and I think when you are shooting something ,you never know how it’s going to go over until you watch it with an audience. Then it’s too late to change anything.
You and Rob Huebel often perform together as hosts of comedy shows, and you work in character -- generally with moustaches. Why mustaches and not say, snoods?
I love moustaches. It’s a weird fetish, I know. I just think people with moustaches are funnier and somewhat pompous. They are like, "Check this out. I grew this. Wanna go?" Whenever I do a character, I’m always thinking, "I've got the perfect moustache." I literally have 10+ moustaches in a little drawer. Whenever I think of a character, I picture him with a moustache but oddly never a beard.
How much of that act is pure improv? Do you prefer improv to straight stand-up? In fact, do you ever perform as just "Paul Scheer"? As opposed to, say, your serial killer-on-furlough character?
When I perform with Rob it’s loosely structured/written. No matter how much we rehearse and tell each we are going to stick exactly to the script, we never can. We immediately go off it as soon as we hit the stage. So lately when we perform we know our beginning, middle and end, and we go from there.
I hardly ever perform as Paul Scheer. We are taking Best Week Ever around to colleges right now, so that’s a venue where I am performing as myself, but honestly I am little intimidated by pure stand-up, I’ve tried it a few times, but I almost feel like I’m disrespecting the art of it because I have no intention of working at it as hard as all my friends who are stand-ups do. So if I can’t do it well, I’d rather not do it. I like doing bits/characters more than anything else.
How has the immense fame and popularity due to your snarky comments about celebrities and pop culture affected your life, other than a "Paul Scheer Fans" LiveJournal?
I can’t believe you’ve seen that Paul Scheer Fans LiveJournal. Someone just sent me the link to that the other day. The photo collage scares me a little but it’s so awesome and flattering that someone did that. Apparently I have a few Facebook Fan Clubs too; so yeah, things are going pretty good!
I’ve had offers to start a line of my own body sprays and lotions and as well as my own line of inflatable pools. I haven’t decided which to do yet. Right now I want to concentrate on my charity work, which is trying to find cute clothes for kittens. A lot of people don’t realize that kittens really need to be dressed up cutely. There are so many kittens that are lacking a little ballerina or pirate costume, and if I can help them with my tremendous fame than so be it.
The show has totally opened up doors for me in my career and given me the chance to be a part of a lot of really fun projects, but the coolest way the show has affected me is meeting all the fans. I’m constantly surprised at how many people watch the show and how diverse the fans are. A 15-year-old girl can stop you one day and be incredibly effusive; then you can get a similar reaction from a 45-year-old biker dude the next. I get recognized a lot in NYC on the street, and whenever I leave the city, it triples. I’m always surprised by it. It’s pretty insane! I get an a bunch of really great emails too, even a few marriage proposals, which I think would be awesome to just accept one to just to see what a disaster that would be. Then we could make it a hour long special on VH1 about it.
Basically I’m in this business for one thing, more MySpace Buddies!
You've recently been on tour around the country with Best Week Ever Live, which is now also starting a series of shows at UCB every Monday. How is BWE Live different from the TV show, other than the whole live thing?
Best Week Ever Live is a lot of fun. We really want it to be a good show, and it’s technically really complicated because it’s such a multimedia production, causing a few problems here and there. We have been secretly testing the format in NYC with a few dates over the last six months. We currently are trying to work the kinks out of the show and rotate everyone into the show so they are familiar with it before we hit the road in the fall. Unfortunately I won’t be in any of the New York shows because I’m going to be running the same show out at the UCB Theater in LA in August.
With it's heavy pop culture and media focus, what has the reaction been like in other cities and towns located in the middle of the country? Your trip to Nashville sounds interesting? How did the show go over there?
The biggest difference between the TV show and the stage show is that when we perform on the road you get to see us from the waist down. Which will hopefully debunk the theory that we are incapable of standing. That’s only true for Chuck Nice.
The show is divided into two acts. The first act lets each of the four performers do whatever they want for 10 minutes. Most of the panelists perform stand-up, but someone like me whose background is in sketch and improv, I try to do something a little different. Right now I do a whole presentation of celebrity websites. I used to do "Pop Culture Road Show" where I appraised the audience’s pop culture memorabilia, and I even did a video breakdown of R. Kelly’s "Trapped in the Closet (Volume 1-5)".
The second act is just like the TV show -- we hit the top people in entertainment news, and we do upgrade and downgrades with current videos. We even nominate members of the audience for having the Best Week Ever. It actually translates really well to the stage. The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive -- even the people who don’t watch the show really dig it. Pop culture stuff is so universal nowadays; it’s not like the audience is going to be like, “Who is this Jessica Simpson that they speak of?” Obviously the show caters to the fans but it doesn’t exclude anyone…. I just felt like the biggest salesman there.
You seem to be performing constantly, both in New York and around the country, while also appearing on Best Week Ever every week. Do you sleep?
As I’m writing this I’m on my second cross-country flight in the last 15 hours. I taped an appearance on the new D.L. Hughley show on Comedy Central -- Weekends at the DL -- last night at 5 PM and left for NYC at 9 PM LA time. I arrived in NYC at 5 AM, taped a segment for the Today show with Matt Lauer at 8 AM, and then got right back on an 11 AM plane to fly back to LA for a 3 PM meeting. It’s nuts. I also had the most disgusting sandwich ever made at the TGI Fridays in the Kennedy Airport, but that’s a different story.
I like being busy. I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I don’t even know what laurels are, but I’d hate resting on them. It gets overwhelming at times, but I totally ask for it so I can’t complain. But a lot of my days start with me thinking, “When can I take a nap?”
Are you aware that if you Google "Paul Scheer," nearly ever reference describes you as the "gap-toothed" one on Best Week Ever. Does that drive you crazy?
Yes! It was the one thing that I was most embarrassed of when I was growing up, and I could never get it fixed because my teeth are too small to get braces. (Yeah, I had a pretty tough childhood, but more on that in my tell-all memoir). Now I feel like it’s my distinguishing characteristic -- I don’t mind it anymore. I’ve embraced it. My favorite thing is when people come up to me on the street and go, “Oh you are the dude with the teeth.” Like I would have forgotten. Once a drug dealer offered me free cocaine, because he loved the show and especially my teeth. I refused. I felt like that was probably not the best deal to make. There was another time I was cornered by a creepy lady who told me that people with gaps in there teeth had a higher libido, and then we stared at each other uncomfortably for longer than I would liked.
Is Paul Scheer always "Paul Scheer"? Are you always on? And now for the Barbra Walters moment: Who's the real Paul Scheer? What kind of tree is he?
When I’m not performing or meeting new people, you can often find me crying in the dark with a bottle of Jack and a can of TAB.
I’d be one of those novelty plastic singing Christmas trees that wears sunglasses and dances when activated by music or sound.
When one visits paulscheer.com, one discovers that your website is "powered by yawning babies." How many babies does it take to actually power a website? Where do you get them? What happens when they're drained of power?
I’m told I can’t answer this question until after the lawsuit is settled. But let’s just say third world nations, a lot, and throw them away.
How did you become the divine apostle of Andrew W.K.?
I have a section on my website where I sing the praises of Andrew W.K. For those of you who don’t know him, check out www.andrewwk.com or www.awkworld.com. In my mind he defies definition. He’s the definition of rock star without the ego and more of the party. Some of his songs are "Party till You Puke," "Let’s Party," and "Let’s Have Fun," and he means it. He’s like Tony Robbins meets Danzig.
I got turned on to him really early before a lot of people knew about him. No one knew what to make of him -- was it all an act or was it real? I bought his album and LOVED IT. It’s like the most pure and fun music I’ve ever listened to. People are always suspect when I recommend him, but it’s really great, I swear. Everyone that I turned on to AWK loves him too. Just download his first album and bring it to the gym -- you’ll have the best workout ever! Every time he performs in NYC I see his shows, which are always amazing. AWK and Dolly Parton have been my favorite NYC concerts, and I’ve seen a bunch.
One of the perks of doing Best Week Ever is that they occasionally let me pick a celebrity I want to do a bit with, and doing those 3 segments with AWK were so much fun. Alas, I don’t think I’m cool enough to really hang out with him. I get all quiet when he’s a round. I have a man crush.
Have you seen The Aristocrats yet? What did you think? Why aren't you in it?
Yeah, I loved it. I think the best part about that movie was watching everyone’s different styles. I was really impressed with the old guard of comedians who performed the joke. I thought Whoopi Goldberg and George Carlin were particularly funny. It’s definitely a comedy nerd movie, but in a way it’s the only way to make a documentary about comedians because it really shows you what each person brings to the stage with the same exact material. It was really inspiring. (I have no funny response to this I apologize)
What is funny?
The UCB Theater recently had the 7th Annual Del Close Improv Marathon, which is a week long festival which culminates in a 72 hour non-stop improv marathon which takes place on 3 separate stages. At the conclusion of the 72 hours, the four Members of the UCB brought up the two people who were there for the entire time, and they asked them what they learned from all the comedy shows that they just watched. They responded (and I’m paraphrasing), “There doesn’t seem to be an end to the amount of humor one can find from diseases, being barren, and male rape.” So who am I to argue with them? I’ve never watched 72 hours of comedy straight. Apparently they broke the code of what united every show in the marathon.
I’ll also add that cursing kids really make me laugh, and extremely awkward moments are up there for me too.
Ten things to know about Paul:
What's the best thing you've ever purchased/salvaged off the street?
I was walking around the city with my ex-girlfriend, and we were going to meet her Dad who was celebrating his birthday so I wanted to get a gift for him. So I bought a Kukla, Fran, and Ollie album -- they were like the original Mr. Rogers -- on the street from a homeless guy for a buck because I knew her father loved that show. But on the way to the restaurant I walked by the set of The Devil’s Own. As I’m walking up the street, I pass Harrison Ford who's coming out of his trailer. I’m totally star struck. All these dudes come out of nowhere and start putting Star Wars and Indiana Jones stuff in front of him to sign, and he’s signing all of it. He’s just about to leave, and I thrust out the album. He looks at it and asks, “Was I in this?” I say no, and he laughs, says, “Cool,” and signs it. I never gave it to her father ,and now it’s framed on my wall.
I also got a knight in shinning armor, brought to my apartment for a few days and realized, I don’t need this, but it was a glorious few days.
Which city establishment sees more of your paycheck than you do?
It’s sad because my money goes to the three most corporate places in NYC. The salad bar and Jamba Juice stand at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods. That place has been taking its toll on my bank account. Those things are expensive. I should take up smoking -- it may not be healthier, but it’s cheaper.
I’ll also buy something at least once a week from Best Buy. Anytime you have a DVD for 14.99, I don’t care what it is, I’m buying -- Coach Carter here I come.
Honorable Mentions to The Half King on 23rd Street and The House of Brews on 51st. The latter has something called a beer tap that sits at your table. In a word: magical. The Half King is the best because they never stop serving food, and it’s not crappy bar food either. It’s really surprisingly delicious, although the pictures of the starving children on the wall make me feel guilty for eating it.
Gotham Mad Lib: When the ____________ (noun) makes me feel ___________ (adverb), I like to _____________ (verb). (Strict adherence to "Madlib" rules is not required.)
I stuck to the Madlib form by not reading the sentence before hand, so I’ll say Giraffe (Noun), Happy (Adverb) and Party (Verb). It worked, although it has nothing to do with NY.
Personality problem solving: Would you consider your personality more hysterical or more obsessive, and have you changed since living in New York; has "New York" become a part of you?
I definitely think my NYC personality is hectic (constantly going) . If there a problem, I definitely obsess over till it’s fixed, but then as soon as it’s done I move on. I like to keep busy and pack a bunch of stuff into one day. I get irritated if I can’t get it all done in time. I think my New York attitude comes out more when I leave the city because I’m always getting irritated with slow service and watching others have small talk. I just want to get stuff done. I knew this was a problem when I started watching movies and started checking my watching to see how much time was left, and not because I didn’t like the movie -- just because I want to get more done. Maybe that speaks of a larger issue. I feel like I just confessed something to a therapist.
Since I grew up here, I've just gotten more and more like this so I try to relax a little bit more now.
NYC confessional: Do you have a local guilty pleasure?
Everything in my life is a guilty pleasure. I like a lot of crap.
There is this Burger Place in the Parker Meriden [Burger Joint], which is hidden back behind the reception desk. There is no sign for it -- just a smoking neon burger above the door, and it has the best burgers and chocolate brownies in the city. If you come after 3PM, they serve up shakes too. I also always visit the ESPN Zone for a quick game of pop a shot. That’s about as athletic as I get.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone, relish in solitude and find your earthly happiness? (We promise not to intrude.)
I have this roof deck on the top of my building, and no one seems to know about it, I never see anyone up there, so I just hang out up there during the days in the summer. For a while last winter, I liked hanging out in that room with the Giant Whale in it at the Museum of Natural History. But upon admitting that, I must say that seems a little douchebaggy, so just know that I know you might think I’m a douchebag, and I’m fine with that. I also often escape to the 42nd street movies theaters during the day. Illegal Double Features!
What's one thing you've done (or regularly do) in NYC that you could not have conceived doing anywhere else?
I think there is a tremendous sense of community in NYC, especially within the artistic communities. Your ability to see one-of-a-kind shows, performances, and readings are amazing. I saw Bill Murray one night do a staged reading of Mark Twain to a house of 20 people. I’ve seen U2 at Irving Plaza, and I’ve seen Hunter S. Thompson do a Q&A at Barnes & Noble. I've watched Chris Rock rehearse for the VMAs in a small club on the Upper West Side. The amount of amazing comedians and comedy shows that I have seen here always make me jealous and inspires me to do more. The city fuels creativity. No other place I’ve been to has that or at least as much as we have it.
Assuming that you're generally respectful of your fellow citizens, was there ever a time when you had to absolutely unleash your inner asshole to get satisfaction?
I used to live in a courtyard apartment, and the way the building was structured, one of the balconies shared my bedroom window. So whenever my neighbors were out on their balcony, they could look into my bedroom. I got used to it. Then my next door neighbor started dating this French guy, and he was a smoker, and he’d smoke out on the balcony day and night, filling my room with smoke. The ventilation was also really bad so I always had to keep my bedroom window open or it would be a sauna. Even with it closed [the smoke] wasn’t much better. I approached him about the problem, and he said, “Fuck Off!” It was WAR!
I hooked up my speakers to the window so that they were facing outward, and whenever he came on the balcony, I launched a full-blown audio assault. I’d go back and forth between blaring sound effects and the worst music I could find -- Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gregorian Chant, and Golden Throats. The more he smoked, the more I played it louder and would stare at him while the music was playing. Then one day it stopped. He never returned. I won!
Besides more square footage, what luxury would you most like to have in your apartment?
Well I just got a dishwasher, and that was awesome. I guess I’m going to go for broke and say I’d love an outdoor balcony where I could BBQ, and while I’m at it let’s include a hot tub. Look there’s that douchebag side again.
There are 8 Million stories in The Naked City. Tell us one, but try to keep it to a New York Minute.
One of my most embarrassing moments happened when I went to go grab a subway. It was rush hour, I was running for it, and as I jumped into the car, the door closed on my face. It hurt real bad. The entire car gasped. I was stunned. But I was also really embarrassed because all these people in the car just watched it happen. I tried to play it off, and I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so I just pretended like nothing happened. Meanwhile everyone in the subway car is staring at me. I confidently take out my book, my face throbbing, and start reading. Still people are staring. Now I feel like they are being weird, not me.
I smile at a fellow passenger; she looks at me oddly. I get off at my, but now I’m freaked out because even people on the street are staring. I can’t figure out why. I go supermarket shopping, go to Kinkos, and it’s the same thing everywhere I go. I finally return home. I look in the mirror and see that the rubber from the door has left a huge black line down the center of my face and neck. It was like that black-and-white Star Trek character Frank Gorshin played on the original series, but I was pale on both sides. It's one of my most embarrassing moments ever; that for about two hours I proudly walked around the city with a prominent black stripe down the center of my face.
Also here’s a quick tip: Never believe a scrawny dude who tells you he needs money to take a car to his mother’s house in Harlem because he locked his keys in his car, and he’s a costume designer for Ridley Scott, and he’s going to get into trouble if he doesn’t hang the costumes up properly. He’s lying. He works 5th Avenue from Washington Square Park North to 23rd and Broadway. He’s so convincing!
Paul will soon be in seen in the upcoming Untitled Onion Movie and appears weekly on VH1’s Best Week Ever. He also performs at the UCB Theater with "Respecto Montalban" and the long running "ASSSSCAT 3000". For more info (and the truth about Ted Danson!), you can check out paulscheer.com.
-- Interview by Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei