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July 18, 2019

Scheer Madness

Paul Scheer is living the life, even if his fellow cast members don’t recognize him.

Bob Makela
  • Nick Rasmussen

"People on set don't recognize me when I've got the wig off," Paul Scheer says, referring to the faux 'fro he sports in the Showtime comedy Black Monday.

"I was at the wrap party, and people looked shocked when they saw me — like they haven't been seeing me for 12 hours a day in this wig."

Such is the verisimilitude of Black Monday, a crass Wall Street-in-the-'80s tale full of wide shoulders, big hair, huge phones and copious cocaine consumption, set on the eve of the internet era. Scheer plays Keith, a sycophantic trader with a secret who works for Mo Monroe, a Wall Street maverick played with raunchy brio by Don Cheadle.

The show's first season focuses on the year leading up to October 19, 1987 — a Monday that saw the worst single-day drop in Wall Street history (the Dow sank 22.61 percent); season two is on order.

"I think part of the fun of the show is these people are living rock-star lives," Scheer says. "They feel like they're untouchable. They're living on pure adrenaline, and they think they can outsmart the system, constantly beg-borrow-and-stealing and not remembering the lies they've told."

A veteran of TV comedy (Human Giant, Veep, Fresh Off the Boat and seven seasons on The League), Scheer welcomed the opportunity to stretch. "When you do comedy, you're often put into a bit of a box," he says. "People come to you to do the same thing over and over again."

Getting out of the box meant playing a character who comes out as gay in a series that's heavy on plot twists, character development and tonal shifts.

"It's a comedy that plays with drama beats, instead of a drama that plays with some elements of comedy," Scheer says. "Each episode is really building, and the pressure is mounting. So by the time you get to episode 10, these characters have gone through something major."

He sees the role as a golden opportunity, and a major challenge. "I do not want to sound dramatic," he says modestly, "but carrying the weight of a season's worth of story, it's not something I've ever really gotten to do. And that, to me, is the most exciting thing."

Black Monday is available on Showtime, streaming and on demand.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2019

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