STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For Digital First Media
Most widely recognized for his role in the 90’s critically acclaimed hit TV sitcom “Mad About You,” comedian, actor, writer, author and musician Paul Reiser has hit the road with his one-man national stand-up tour highlighting the funnier side of life, love, and relationships.
“I’ve been out now for the last three years,” says Reiser from his home in California. “From 1992 to 2012 I didn’t do anything. The last time I was out doing stand-up was a little before 1990 or 91, before “Mad About You.” When “Mad About You” started, I got busy and just didn’t have time for it. When it was over – 7, 8 years later – I was kind of happy to just sit at home. In my head, I was going to get back to it. I was waiting for the right time, and then I realized there was no right time.”
“I just put my finger down on the calendar and I said, ‘Let’s go,’” adds Reiser. “I called up this club and I went down with no real plan. I wasn’t even thinking ‘I’ve got to go out and tour.’ I just wanted to get on stage. It was great. It felt really right. It was about a year of just going locally and doing 15, 20 minutes and building up material. It has been more fun than I remember when I did it the first time around.”
It was during his years at Binghamton University, where he majored in music (piano and composition), that Reiser was drawn to the stage. Finding his calling as a comedian, he spent his summer breaks working the New York club scene, developing his skills as a stand-up comedian.
“You would see guys on TV in the early to late 70’s who came out of that farm system – Freddie Prinze, Gabe Kaplan or David Brenner – and they came from this place, whether it was the Improv or Catch A Rising Star. So, I thought, ‘Maybe if I go there.’ It seemed there was a game plan, like applying to college. ‘If I go there I’ll get my two year degree and I’ll be on the Tonight Show,’ which is not exactly at all how it works. It was still the right place to go.”
Film director Barry Levinson enlisted the talented Reiser for the now classic film “Diner” in 1982. Follow-up feature film appearances by Reiser included “Beverly Hills Cop” (1984), “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987), “Alien” (1986), “The Marrying Man” (1991) and “Bye Bye Love” (1995), each capturing Reiser in a variety of roles.
“I think they all have their appeal,” says Reiser. “Movies are fun because there’s an opportunity that you get to play and you get to work with talented filmmakers. They are certainly rewarding in that they are out there forever. People see them and enjoy them. It’s great fun to be in something that’s big like that.”
Reiser’s film career remains increasingly active. He appeared in the 2014 Oscar nominated film “Whiplash,” and has four new films in post production or filming – “6 Miranda Drive” (2015), “Concussion” (2015), “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” (2016) and “War on Everyone” (2016).
Initially earning a role in the TV sitcom “My Two Dads” (1987-90), it was the launch of the comedy series “Mad About You” (1992-99) that catapulted Reiser and his co-star, Helen Hunt, into the spotlight.
Playing the part of Paul Buchman, Reiser co-created, co-starred and co-composed the show’s theme song “The Final Frontier” (with famed producer Don Was). After earning nominations for an Emmy, a Golden Globe, American Comedy Award and Screen Actors Guild Award, Reiser became a household name.
“Mad About You” was certainly the pinnacle moment in launching my career,” recalls Reiser. “All the gears happened to work out in the right way. If I was going to do a show, my idea was I wanted to do one about what I was doing in my act, which was being a newlywed. My material at that time was all sort of relationship stuff. Suddenly you’re with another person every moment of your life. Life changes and you look at yourself, and it’s just a little hot bed of comedy. That was my goal. I wanted to write a show that was about that kind of stuff.”
“The timing was right, and NBC needed a show that spoke to that audience,” adds Reiser. “I don’t know if that show two years earlier or two years later would have found the same success.”
“I started out doing stand-up, then I got some lucky breaks and things worked out in TV and I got to do films,” says Reiser. “In my head, these were all bonus activities while I was waiting for the smoke to clear and I would get back to stand-up.”
Reiser’s creativity reaches beyond the stage, TV and film and has found him authoring three books, Couplehood (1995), about the ups and downs of being in a committed relationship, Familyhood (2011), a collection of humorous essays, and Babyhood (2012), about his experiences as a first-time father.
While proud of his many accomplishments, Reiser considers himself a comedian first and foremost, and his time on stage, his greatest passion.
“Part of the magic or appeal of stand up comedy is that it’s sort of elusive and unattainable,” says Reiser. “You’re trying to get a certain joke just right and routine just right – a whole act just right, and you never do. You’ll get one moment that works better one night and the next night it’s different. That joke that works out to a 6, that never got a laugh – suddenly is a 9. Like, what happened there? You keep looking for that perfection. I think the chase is what makes it so fun and appealing to me.”
“If they are laughing, it’s not just ‘cause I made something up that was so wildly funny, so much as, ‘OK, we’re not the only ones going through this stuff.’ Secretly on the other end, I’m on stage going, ‘OK, they are laughing, so I’m not the only one going through this stuff.’ It’s a mutual validating process.”
“I have a very smart game plan,” says Reiser. “I don’t do anything interesting. In that way you’re bullet proof (laughs). I was never out clubbing. I was never out getting into fights. I live a pretty normal, busy, dull life. There’s too much work to do.”