josh hadley | the shadows of pop culture | april 2017
Paul Reiser is one of those names you know you have heard but might be somewhat unsure of where you know it from.
Being the star of many films and television programs, on top of being an accomplished author, songwriter and comedian, Reiser is a stalwart entertainer and his presence in coming to Manitowoc's Capitol Civic Centre on March 24 made for a fantastic evening.
Paul Reiser is (to most of us) the corporate scum ball Carter Burke in 1986's "Aliens" or that neurotic guy on either "Mad About You" or "My Two Dads."
Long a stand-up comic, Reiser is a chameleon as he can ease his way into serious roles with little effort. "Aliens" and the "Beverly Hills Cop" movies are simply two examples (although the "Beverly Hills Cop" films are comedies they play as more serious works).
Reiser started out as an unknown stand-up comic as so many have before him. It was finally, in his 1982 role (ironically as a secret stand-up comic) in Barry Levinson's "Diner," that garnered him some real attention. After bouncing around in a TV guest spot here and there, he landed the thankless but essential role of Jeffrey Friedman in "Beverly Hills Cop" in 1984. Even though he was comic relief to the unstoppable Eddie Murphy, his is one of the more memorable characters from the film. Reprising that role in the 1987 sequel cemented him as the funny guy in a movie where very serious matters are at hand. His part in 1986's "Aliens" is what he will most likely be remembered for into the future. An amazing turn in a deadly, grave situation with almost no comedy at all, Reiser was out of his comfort zone and yet perfectly cast as the villainous corporate yes-man. I remember him in his obscure 1986 comedy "Odd Jobs" myself, but I seem to be the only person who has ever seen that movie despite it being a cable staple in the '80s. When I spoke to Reiser, he told me it was best to forget that movie outright.
Not content to just be in movies, Reiser would tackle television as well with the 1987 series "My Two Dads" and then the monstrous smash "Mad About You" in 1992. Then there was the aptly titled "Paul Reiser Show" in 2011 and "Married" in 2014. Currently, Reiser is starring in the Amazon Prime show "Red Oaks" and the highly anticipated second season of Netflix's "Stranger Things." His turn as a main character in "Stranger Things" will most likely garner the kind of attention that "Aliens" did back in 1986. It's odd that a comedian gets the most notice in dramas.
As a stand-up comic, Reiser was number 77 on Comedy Central's "100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time" and it's easy to see why. He has a level-headed, yet neurotic approach to his stand-up that makes his act feel natural and unrehearsed. Starting out with a set on getting older and ending up running the gamete from marriage woes to practical day-to-day life bits. The topics are identifiable and easy to digest.
A mostly clean comic with no real dirty jokes (although a few border on dirty) and an effortless delivery, Reiser comes across like a true professional that really cares what his fans think of him. After his set, he goes to the lobby to sign autographs and speak to those attendees who stick around. Not charging for his signature or to take a photo with fans is something to be commended and it is more than those at conventions will do for fans. Prior to ending the show, while in Manitowoc's Capitol Civic Centre, he answered questions from the audience, opening up an almost completely impromptu stand-up section based on these very-Wisconsin questions. Obviously, ad-libbing, Reiser never misses a beat and graciously interacted with his audience. Dodging a few questions for clear reasons of confidentiality (someone asked him about plot points from the new season of "Stranger Things") Reiser was very open and yes, very funny. He even tailored his opening bit to Manitowoc and Wisconsin audiences.
"While in my hotel room I found out that 'Manitowoc' is actually an ancient Indian word meaning ... 'Not too far from Green Bay.'"
As an ice breaker, it worked.
Another piece of local talent was at hand for this show and that would be Copper Box out of Oshkosh. A country-styled band with a sense of folk influence, Copper Box was very much a hit with the Manitowoc audience. The music was not to my tastes, but I would be lying if I said that they were not talented. Clearing knowing their stuff and very much having a blast on stage, Copper Box was something I am glad to have experienced.
A fiercely confrontational and arrogant critic whose stubborn nature makes him immanently readable and equally angering, Josh Hadley is a writer for magazines such as Hustler, Fangoria, Paracinema, Shadowland, Grindhouse Purgatory and Cashers du Cinemart, as well as a radio host on Jackalope Radio. Find more from him at 1201beyond.com, a website that only the most anti-social personalities would engage.