In the 1970s, Paul performed at local comedy clubs and made four guest appearances on "The Gong Show." He later joined the Los Angeles-based improvisational comedy team "The Groundlings" and remained a member for six years, working with Bob McClurg, John Paragon, Susan Barnes, and Phil Hartman. Paul and Phil have become friends and have been working and writing on material together. Paul wrote sketches and developed his improvisational skills. He also forged a significant friendship with Phil, with whom he developed the "Pee-wee Herman" character.