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Paul Morrissey: From sportscaster to comic

Comedy was never Paul Morrissey’s intended career path. The Owego native grew up as a sports kid, playing and watching basketball – but enjoying some “Saturday Night Live” and HBO comedy specials with it.

“Along with my Larry Bird highlight tapes I would watch comedy,” said Morrissey, now 30-something. (He won’t give his actual age, but says it’s “26 in L.A. years,” a reference to his current hometown).

Morrissey’s first career – TV sportscaster – didn’t last long. He used a few too many humor references and the owner of his station decided he had to go.

No problem. Next up was a career in comedy, which Morrissey has done for the last decade. On Saturday, he’s performing a pair of shows (8 and 10 p.m.) at Rob’s Comedy Playhouse in Williamsville.

Here’s our recent conversation:

Question: Your bio says your former TV station fired you. But were you actually fired?

Answer: I left probably a minute or two before I had to leave. When you see the writing on the wall…

Q: So how did a career as a newscaster lead to a career in comedy?

A: I didn’t want to be the dry news guy. I thought it was a place where I could be funny. I used clips from movies I wasn’t allowed to use – I did a story on bagpipers and used Mike Myers quotes. I realize now I basically wanted to do “SNL’s”Weekend Update or a “Daily Show” type of thing on a regular news station. But I never would have been able to get in comedy if not for the sports anchor step, because I wasn’t a performer. I just knew sports. That was the link – being on TV, and learning to be myself in front of the camera.

Q: Let’s go back to your childhood: As a kid watching those comedy tapes in between basketball highlights, did you study up on the performers’ styles?

A: George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld and the great ones were the only comics on TV, not the up-and-coming guys other than a few on the young comedian specials. When I looked at George Carlin, I didn’t think, “Oh, I can do that.” He was on another level.

Q: Nowadays, there are so many ways of getting closer to their level – of fame, at least.

A: There are always the shortcuts – get a thing on YouTube, or there are TV stars who don’t really do stand-up, but they’re famous enough to get people to come see you. The thing that makes you a headliner is people come and see you. You can skip all that, I guess, but if I end up getting on a sitcom or getting a degree of fame for something other than stand-up, I want to make sure I have a really good act to go with that.

Q: Do you aspire to land a TV role that’ll help blow up your stand-up career?

A: Acting is something I like to do; I’m pretty comfortable being in front of the camera from the TV news days. If I could get on a “Fargo” or “Breaking Bad” type of show like Bill Burr was, I think that’s great for comics.

Q: What’s your ultimate goal?

A: I’d love to have a career like Brian Regan or Jim Gaffigan or Tom Papa, guys who are really dedicated to stand-up because they know that’s what they’re going to be doing for the rest of their lives, and they just keep getting better.

COMEDY PREVIEW

Who: Paul Morrissey

When: 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday

Where: Rob’s Comedy Playhouse, 1340 North Forest Road, Williamsville

Tickets: $10

Info: www.robscomedy-playhouse.com

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