A week after graduating from Auburn, Paul Schissler booked a one-way ticket to New York City to pursue his dream of being a stand-up comedian. Things stopped going according to plan after that.
“It was brutal,” said Schissler, ‘11. “My second night in the city I spent the night in a stairwell, in January in the rain. Then I had to start my first day at some fancy Italian restaurant job the next morning. After three days I quit because I couldn’t handle it and got a job I taking bus tickets at the airport, working 10 or 12 hour shifts. People in the city just cuss you out all the time, too.”
Schissler’s rough arrival in the Big Apple seemed to finally pay off when he landed his first gig at New York’s famous Gotham Comedy Club. “I just bombed so hard, I was like ‘I don’t know how to be a comedian, I don’t know how to write jokes, what am I doing here? Everyone else was so good, I just felt so crushed.”
Schissler learned what all aspiring comics soon realize: comedy is like going to the gym–you need to do it every night if you want to get better, and there’s no better place for it than New York City. A self-professed “clean” comic, Schissler avoids the low-brow, gutter humor in favor of more honest and wholesome material. A chief source of inspiration has been his sexuality; a committed Christian who’s waiting until marriage for sex, he’s found non-traditional ways of making a name for himself.
“I joke about being a virgin and waiting till marriage and because that is very taboo for NYC, it’s really allowed me to stand out and be known among other comedians because I have a very against-the-flow viewpoint on things in my life and relationships and everything in between. Being a clean comic has really helped me stand out for who I am.”
Never one to shy from opportunity, Schissler was thrown to the comedy fire a few times on his way up the ranks. While performing at Gotham a few years ago, his set was moved back to allow a brief set by … Jerry Seinfeld.
“That’s such a tough spot, but I had a really good set because I liked the challenge of that where it’s such a hopeless situation. They just saw the best comedian there is and then me, the lowest guy on the totem pole, but it was a great set. Then a year later I was doing a show there and I had to follow Louis C.K. As hard as those spots are, it’s cool because you have the challenge of it and it really makes you dig deep and do better.”
While his on-stage reputation continues to grow, behind the scenes Schissler is quietly shaking up the comedy community thanks to the creation of Comedywire, an online network of comedians, writers and professional funny people where anyone can post jokes and get recognized instead of slugging it out on the live circuit.
“It’s essentially the world’s largest writing room. Everyone wants funny lines and jokes, but no one knows how to find that or get access to that. Here they have access to over 7,500 people signed up who are writing jokes every day. It’s a very passionate community that just wants to write jokes and get better.”
In the two years since helping found Comedywire, Schissler said they’re closer to reach their goal than ever. Last year Chevy Chase, Paul Schaefer and Gilbert Godfrey hosted a writing event with the head writers at Comedywire, the “highlight of the year” for everyone involved.
As Comedywire takes on a life of its own, Schissler plans on focusing more on his own career, including recording a half-hour set on video for show auditions and working on material. Recently engaged, Schissler says he’ll have to find inspiration elsewhere.
“I’ll have to scrap all my virgin material – I’m glad to do it.”