andrew kruse-ross | paul reiser | march 2016
Paul Reiser needs little introduction. As a comedian and actor, he's earned Emmy, Golden Globe, American Comedy Award and Screen Actors Guild nominations for the hit television show "Mad About You," in which he starred and co-created. As an author, Reiser has penned several books including "Couplehood," which sold over two million copies and reached the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list. His film and television credits are many and include roles in "Aliens" and "Beverly Hills Cop." More recent roles include those in"Concussion," and the Oscar award-winning "Whiplash." On the small screen look for him on Amazon Prime's "Red Oaks," which returns in 2016 for a second season.
Three years ago, Reiser returned to performing stand-up comedy and is now delivering the laughs to sold out venues across the country. On March 5 he visits Green Bay for a single engagement at the Meyer Theatre.
Taking time away from his busy schedule to field questions from his home in Los Angeles, Reiser talks about the upcoming show, the other Paul and a busy 2016.
You've been really active with both your film and television roles, but I know first and foremost, you've said that – at least early in your career – that you were a comedian first and all else was icing on the cake. Does that still hold true today?
Yeah, and I'm actually only now rediscovering that. I had intended to be a stand-up and everything else was icing, and inadvertently stand-up comedy got put on the back burner and I forgot to take it off. It was only about three years ago that I've gone out and started performing again, but I was instantly reminded of how much I loved it and how fun it is. So, I don't want to flip … I mean the TV and the film roles that I'm doing are great fun and those actually are the more visible of the things that I do, but stand-up is the one that is actually the most enjoyable and the most creative for me. It sort of feels like the right default mode for me, like that's what I should be doing.
The way it lays out, I go out, if not every weekend, every other weekend I perform somewhere and I'll go up at the clubs here and do it in town just to work on material. They sort of co-exist with all the other stuff.
For the comedy tour, are you working with older material, or are you doing new stuff?
No, it's all new stuff. One of the reasons it took me a while is I didn't just want to dig up my old act and shake the mothballs off; I just wanted to start from scratch, so I literally started with three minutes of new stuff and every day I'd go down and build it up. So this will be all new for this round. I find I'm still interested in the same kind of material and the same sort of perspective, but when you go out in your 50s it's a different kind of world than it is in your 30s. Hopefully, the material reflects that.
Paul Buchman in 'Mad About You' was modeled after you, the real Paul. For those that perhaps are only familiar with your work on 'Mad About You,' how at home are they going to feel seeing you on stage with your stand-up routine?
You know, it was very much by design that 'Mad About You'-Paul was exactly like me because that way I didn't have to act too hard. At the time it was really just modeled on my stand-up and in my stand-up I don't really play a character; I'm pretty much just me, and that's even more so now. So if anybody only knows me from 'Mad About You,' you certainly won't come to my show and be shocked. There won't be this drop-off where they go, 'This isn't the guy I was expecting.' They'll likely go, 'This is exactly the guy I was expecting, but he looks a little older. I remember him younger and shorter, but probably because the TV was shorter.'
Is it easier for you at this stage of your career to accumulate material? Do you think a broader perspective on life, in general, helps?
Yes and no. I think things resonate deeper and you look at things in a little more of the larger picture of things when you see children grow up. When you're closer to 80 than 20 you go 'Wow'! You can see the bigger picture, but still you hit on material that touches on that and sometimes is silly … I was doing a bit the other day about gum, coming up with too many flavors for gum and I thought, 'the least important bit I'll ever do,' but it got a nice laugh and I said, 'alright, it's just something else I notice.' Sometimes they're big; sometimes they're small. Hopefully, the balance works out right.
2016 is a big year for you and films; you've got at least three that I know of coming out.
Yeah, there are three or four coming out that happened to shoot last year that all happen to come out soon. It's been a nice way to do it. I've gotten these nice supporting roles. Some are comedies and some are not. Some are sort of split-the-difference … I'm really not precious about it other than I just want to go if the script is appealing and/or the team is good and getting to work with good actors and talented directors, I'm happy to fly in and do two or three days on a movie and do a short role. And it's interesting. They're all very different films and done for different reasons, but it's crazy that they all seem to be coming out in a little cluster.
And on the small screen we have 'Red Oaks,' which has been approved for a second season and you'll be returning in the role of Getty. Two-parter: How valuable is video on demand to the future of television and are there any major differences in shooting for VOD as opposed to say shooting for NBC?
Yeah, there are not really differences in shooting. When you do these sorts of binge-watching shows, they shoot just like a movie. 'Red Oaks' we did eight or 10 episodes consecutively. It was like going off to do a movie and it watched like that because people sit down and watch the whole thing. So it changes the production of it, not the shooting, but the production, where they have to write and edit and get them all done quickly. It's not like, 'We'll put on the first one and we'll go edit the second one.' It's like, 'Nope, they all need to be ready Monday.'
[VOD] certainly has helped for the good of the TV landscape for the viewers and the creators of content because there's just that many more places to go. And the pace of it is actually better. If I'm out developing three or four things for television my first choice would always be to land on a cable outlet or an Amazon/Netflix type of thing. The network model is less appealing when you have the freedom that the other ones afford.
I don't really want to use the term 'resurgence' but other people have used it to refer to your career and your recent work. I know that you've said that you didn't have a lot on your plate planned after 'Mad About You,' but here you are incredibly busy. I wonder if you have any wisdom for others looking to stay busy and how do you keep it all afloat? You've got a lot of irons in the fire.
You know it's funny. It's one of those things you learn over and over again in life, that you can make your plans but it doesn't always play out the way you plan – for good or for bad. Sometimes there are disappointments; sometimes there are surprises, and usually, both. After 'Mad About You' my only plan was to lay low. We moved into a new house and we had a second kid and it was the right time to be staying home. I was working and writing new stuff, but I wasn't really out there in the public. But what's interesting, and I can't really figure the reasoning other than just the sheer serendipity of it is the minute I started going out and doing stand-up – and it wasn't very public, it was just going out and doing a little club – suddenly, that's when film roles started coming in. It's not like they saw me on a Tuesday night at Chuckles … but somehow, by stepping out in the universe and being out there, things came to me. It was interesting. And as I say, they were very diverse roles and all from very different types of projects. So, ultimately, I think it comes down to that: you've gotta jump into the game and watch what happens. You gotta suit up and you gotta step out onto the field.
Look for Paul Reiser in upcoming films "6 Miranda Drive" with Kevin Bacon, "Devil in the Deep Blue Sea" with Jason Sudeikis and Maisie Williams, "Miles" with Molly Shannon and "War on Everyone" with Alexander Skarsgard and Michael Pena. At home catch 'Red Oaks' on Amazon Prime and, for the first time ever, the entire "Mad About You" series will be available in a DVD box set, coming this spring.
Catch Reiser at the Meyer Theatre on March 5. Tickets available at ticketstaronline.com or by calling (800) 895-0071. Further info at meyertheatre.org and paulreiser.com.