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Paul Mecurio

Paul Mecurio performs at the Comedy Cellar in New York City.

Auburn Public Theater will end its 10th anniversary comedy season Saturday with the man who started the downtown venue's first comedy season: Paul Mecurio.

Looking back on his sold-out February 2006 shows, held a few months after the theater opened, the New York City comedian said he felt part of something special.

"I was really honored," he said Wednesday. "It felt like I was helping out the community there. The people were really appreciative."

Mecurio would return to Auburn Public Theater later that year, and again in 2008 and 2009. The theater has asked him to come back since, he said, but their schedules didn't match. Like the theater, Mecurio keeps a busy schedule.

A Wall Street investment banker who began a comedy career in 1995 on the advice of Jay Leno, Mecurio went on to write for "The Daily Show" as its profile rose during the early 2000s. His efforts would help earn the show a Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting in 2000, as well as a 2002 Emmy nomination.

Today, with "Daily Show"-inspired hits like "Last Week Tonight" and "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" continuing to popularize the fake news format, Mecurio is happy to have been on the ground floor.

"I'm a little surprised that it's sustained itself this long because of how things come and go in pop culture," he said. "But there's enough content to go around to mock and satirize. So the more, the merrier."

Mecurio is still close to "The Daily Show's" legacy: He's the warm-up comedian for "Late Night with Stephen Colbert." Though he's now a late night talk show host, Colbert retains the same satirical edge he brought to "The Daily Show" and then "The Colbert Report," Mecurio said.

However, in his own stand-up — which he's brought to podcasts and comedy festivals, short films and half hour specials, CNN and Fox News — Mecurio turns his attention away from politics and toward the personal. Well, the personal and the pugilistic.

"I get in a lot of confrontations with people in customer service," he joked.

Whether it's almost getting arrested on an Amtrak train or almost throwing fists over soup, Mecurio makes comedy of everyday conflict. He also says what others may not be willing to — like how, on the subway the day after the San Bernadino attacks in December, he briefly wondered whether two women wearing burqas were terrorists. 

He talks through those thoughts, though, in terms as honest as they are humorous. And he's not daunted by the movement toward political correctness that's only gripped comedy tighter in the 10 years since Mecurio first performed in Auburn.

"I think when you start worrying about that PC stuff, then you're killing comedy," he said. "Everything becomes soft and general."

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.