R5 Comedians from Westchester County: Paul Virzi

Yonkers-born Paul Virzi has been doing standup for the past 13 years. His parents’ love for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson turned him on to comedy, and soon Eddie Murphy became his hero. His own career started in 1999 when he decided to give an open-mic night at Woodstock, New York’s Joyous Lake a try and figured he’d wing it with some funny observations that he’d let fly from the top of his head.

He bombed.

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But he loved the rush of getting up there and the challenge of making people laugh, so he put together some material and did it again. This time, he got the laughs and caught the bug. From there, it was on to regular Manhattan beginner nights and “bringer” shows. Today, he performs in Vegas, Atlantic City, and around the country with comic heavyweights like Dave Attell and Louis C.K. He regularly opens for standup superstar Bill Burr and, on November 11, 2011, he played the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall.

“Other than the births of my son and daughter, it was the most special night of my life. All of us who played it couldn’t even talk about it building up to the night. We knew it was going to be special.”

Says Virzi: “I suffer from OCD—not the kind that has me washing my hands all day, but the kind where you get really crazy, intrusive thoughts that hit at really bad moments. They can be really dark and violent thoughts that just come to me.” The knowing nods from the audience let Virzi know that he wasn’t the only one. Rather than put fans off, he found that authentically revealing himself didn’t make him a sideshow; rather, it drew the audience to him.

“I’ve gotten great reactions from people,” he says.


“I love how they say flying is safer than driving. I can’t remember the last time I went for a drive and worried about smashing into the ocean. When I come to a stop and park, I don’t clap.  Why do people clap at landings—aren’t we supposed to make it?”

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