Comic Paul Virzi Likes Having His Stand-Up Hit Hard

Paul Virzi isn't afraid to say what you're thinking.
Paul Virzi isn't afraid to say what you're thinking. Photo by JW Photography

Paul Virzi has an exciting 2020 on the horizon: he’s fine-tuning his latest hour to record in March and has a secret role in the upcoming Judd Apatow directed Pete Davidson movie coming from Universal in the summer.

But first, Virzi wants to kill it at Houston Improv. “I’ve played so many of them, but not this new one,” he explains.” So I’m excited about it! If I do them all it’s great, but it's just such a good room so it’s always like you know you’re going into a good spot, you know what I mean? I look forward to coming to Houston, and last time I was out there, the people were the best. I love that area of the country.”

The New York born talker is known to many for his friendship with comic Bill Burr, who produced Virzi’s debut hour I’ll Say This for Comedy Central. But before he was opening up for Burr, Virzi recalls some unique gigs along the path to headlining. “It was an open mike I did at 21 years old,” he reflects. “It was just me and a buddy of mine at this famous bar in Woodstock, New York where like The Rolling Stones and a whole bunch of bands would play, just as practice. They let me go up there nothing really prepared, awful jokes, of course. But then, I went up to the booker and said, book me next week… and then I was prepared! Things started getting going, I went to New York City and started doing ‘bringers’ shows, which is actually a nightmare to think about right now. You gotta bring like three paid audience members and they tell you you’re going on at like 9:30, but they completely don’t care about the schedule and you end up going on at 11:15. You’re exhausted, your friends hate you because you told them it was gonna be a quick in-and-out thing, and that’s pretty much my beginning. But then I got the itch, and things were going well, and I felt like I was doing well amongst the new people, and things just started rolling from there.”

“I’ve been going hard at it since probably like 03-04,” Virzi continues. “That’s when I really put my head down and started to feature. I performed in somebody’s living room once with an empty Corona bottle as a microphone. My sister was like: These people want to hire you for a party. But when I showed up it was like a residency, and there were people like eating hors d’oeuvres. And I was like: Where’s the show gonna be? And they said they were gonna round everybody up, but there were football play-off games in other rooms, so I’m standing in their living room. Adults are on the ground sitting ‘Indian’ style, and you know what, it ended up being great. Once you do stuff like that, standing on like soda crates as a stage – you get tested, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s some nightmare gigs I wished I could take back, but in a way they molded me to be where I’m at now, you know what I mean?”

With a new hour locked and loaded and ready to record (“I’m really proud of the last special, that one broke some records, but this one is gonna hit harder for sure.”), Virzi is ready to take on the next level of comedy superstardom – the big screen.

Although the performer can’t say much about his role in the upcoming Pete Davidson-vehicle, he shares the process of working with living legend Judd Apatow.  “It was amazing - I’ve done some independents and some sketches, but this is a major motion picture. For me, working with Judd, obviously I was nervous. It couldn’t have been cooler. Here’s a funny story: I had to have a mustache, a really big mustache. So what happened was, costume and make-up would keep calling me every day – 'How’s the mustache coming? Can we see it?' It got to the point where I was like, 'I’m GREEK and ITALIAN, my mustache will be fine in two hours.' Finally, this lady calls me, and I went to send her the emoji of the Thumbs Up,  but instead I hit the big Middle Finger! I’m going like NO! NO! I didn’t mean it. And she’s not responding. They were all laughing on the set, but I’m thinking I’m getting fired off this Universal movie before I even start. But they all laughed and Judd, really get the most out of you. Pete Davidson is a good friend of mine, so it be in it is an amazing scene.”

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 21, 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, November 22 and 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 23 at Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit $20-45

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Vic covers the comedy scene, in Houston and beyond. When not writing articles, he's working on his scripts, editing a podcast, doing some funny make-em-ups or preaching the good word of supporting education in the arts.
Contact: Vic Shuttee