Long before he found himself on stage in front of a mic, Mike Paramore really wanted to play football. Like many Pee Wee football players, he wanted to make the NFL. Thing was, coaches along the way had similar ideas, including the staff at the University of Akron. They recruited Paramore, who played linebacker at Garfield High, with the idea that he could lose weight and kick some serious ass at strong safety.
"I was kind of a reckless hitter," says Paramore, who went to 10 different schools in 12 years while growing up here, as he sits at the downtown Corner Alley bar, munching on a taco hamburger stacked with tortilla chips.
Decked out in a black Jordan T-shirt and sweats, Paramore still possesses that defensive swagger even though he long ago blew out his knee, his NFL dreams dashed in the process.
"It was kind of depressing," he admits.
While living in Columbus where he was recovering from surgery, he "stumbled across" an improv team and thought he'd give it a shot since he was always "the funny guy."
"I actually hate being the center of attention, but improv was way out of my comfort zone," he says. "Being a comedian is contrary to who I am as a person. I haven't decided if I get to be who I really am when I'm on stage, or if I get to get away from who I really am. I'm still trying to figure that part out."
He put together a five-minute standup set that served as his tryout for the improv team. It went well. People laughed. But Paramore, who says he was shaking during the entire routine, swore he'd never do standup again.
And yet, friends coaxed him into competing in a "funniest person" contest in Columbus and then in Cincinnati. He placed second both times. As a reward, he received a week-long hosting gig. He's gotten gigs ever since.
"It was a snowball effect," says Paramore, who now performs regularly and books himself into clubs throughout the country.
"My material has always been life observations," says the comedian, who last year released the comedy album, The Things We Tell Ourselves. "I feel more comfortable talking about race now that I'm more comfortable on stage, which isn't very comfortable at all. I still have to have a Long Island before going on stage. That's come more with me gaining a voice. I never broached the subject of race until the last couple of years."
While he's not exactly sure where this is all going to take him, there is a certain satisfaction he gets from even being able to consider the idea that one day he could make a living off comedy. And the attention? Well, he's still that shy kid at heart.
"I would be okay with being famous. It's been said to me that I will be great in an unscripted show interacting with people, but my goal is to be able to support my family using comedy," he says. "I think it's awesome to be able to travel around the country and sell tickets using your name because I was on a show, or be famous just for your comedy like a Bill Burr or Brian Regan. But I would be perfectly fine being the wealthy, working comic that nobody knows, if that's possible." — Jeff Niesel