A Wall Street Banker Turned to Comedy for Happiness and a Career Change
As a banker, he says he always found it impossible to express feelings without sounding patronizing
He thought he was funny, but he found out he wasn’t
When Mike Murphy walked through the doors of a theater in Manhattan in February 2001, he didn’t know quite what to expect.
It was a Saturday night and the lobby was packed with people waiting for the evening’s feature act. A tall, wiry man in a gray suit was sitting at a table, hunched over a laptop, and every once in a while he’d raise a thick eyebrow in the direction of the restive crowd. He seemed to be making some kind of bet.
When a woman in front of him got a text message, he glanced down at his laptop, then back to the woman. “That’s weird,” he said. “Why don’t we get my check.” With a flourish, he grabbed his check and walked to the back of the room where the performers were preparing for the evening’s performance.
It was a small theater, but Murphy was used to small theaters: He was a theater major at the University of Virginia, where he studied political theater and improvisation. He thought, What’s this guy doing?
“When I got to the theater in that moment, I thought, This is going to be a great show,” says Murphy. “I’ve never had my heart broken by a show before. We played comedy right out of college, so I knew it was going to be something different.”
The show started and Murphy was surprised, but not upset, by the woman standing in the center of the theater. She came over and shook his hand. She was a businesswoman from Minneapolis, and she told Murphy, “Your show is great.”
“I thought, Wow, this is crazy,” Murphy remembers. And then he realized they were talking about the play on stage.
“Do you think I need to say something?” Murphy asked.