Provenza was destined for a life in comedy. Since everyone laughed at him anyway he figured he might as well make it look like it was his idea, and by 17 was performing at New York’s original Improv. Continuing stand-up while training with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and studying at University of Pennsylvania, he has now been a comedian for over thirty years, leaving him with absolutely no other marketable skills whatsoever.
In 1983, Paul made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. By the late 1980’s, he’d appeared on every TV show with a desk and a host, opened for superstars in Las Vegas and toured clubs, colleges and concerts across America. He wrote, co-produced, and hosted the ground-breaking Ace Award-nominated “Comics Only” for Comedy Central, and by 1991 did a critically acclaimed stand-up special for Showtime, “Incredible Man-Boy.” He starred on ABC’s short-lived, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” hosted Nickelodeon’s “Kids’ Court,” became television’s foremost interpreter of ‘the star’s boyfriend’ (series regular, “Facts of Life,” “Empty Nest”), co-starred with Keanu Reeves in “Under the Influence” for CBS, played a recurring role on “The West Wing,” co-starred on Showtime’s “Beggars and Choosers,” guest starred on countless sitcoms and dramas, and played Fleischman’s replacement in the final season of “Northern Exposure,” enraging the show’s fans who still blame him personally for its demise.
Theatre highlights include a Drama Desk Award for Best Actor for Only Kidding, working with playwright Steve Martin, performing the title role in his Picasso at the Lapin Agile (NY and national tour), and directing Nigerian Spam Scam Scam, and Kumail Nanjiani: Unpronounceable.
Film credits include festival favourite Fixing Frank, and various indie films nobody’s ever seen but are online somewhere between some cat videos and clips of people getting hit in the testicles.
By 2000, Paul got involved in human trafficking on the international comedy scene and spent the decade performing across the UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
In 2005, he got away with directing The Aristocrats, the infamous behind-the-scenes comedy/documentary, co-produced and gently caressed by Penn Jillette, about one very dirty joke. Against all better judgment, it broke records at Sundance and was released to critical acclaim and box office success.
Paul has consulted for Just For Laughs festivals, curated comedy for Chicago’s Lakeshore Theatre, created the Free Speech Comedy series at The Revolutions International Theatre Festival in Albuquerque. He has been a recurring panellist on NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me.