Paul Reiser did something very clever when he created the character of his “Mad About You” alter ego.
“When writing ‘Mad About You,’ I made Paul Buchman as much like me as I could, so I wouldn’t have to act too hard,” Reiser said from Los Angeles in a recent phone interview with The Bee. “The good news is there isn’t that much of a difference between my persona and his. Paul Buchman was written to be like me. If people only know me as Paul Buchman and come see me perform, they’re not going to be shocked.”
Granted, the comedy about a New York married couple debuted in 1992. So now instead of telling jokes about newlyweds, he tells jokes about a 25-year-old marriage. But, as he said, “the style and the things that make me laugh are still the same.” Reiser will bring his humor to the Gallo Center for the Arts stage on March 7.
Reiser’s return to stand-upis a long time coming. Although he got his start in comedy clubs and movies, TV soon lured him away. First came films like “Diner” and “Aliens.” Then came TV shows “My Two Dads” and “Mad About You.” But after a long break from the comedy circuit, Reiser picked up the mike again in 2013.
But once again, TV and movies came calling to lure him away.
“It’s an interesting thing that happened. It’s a funny thing, really. I started out as a stand-up and that’s all I wanted to do. So anytime I did an acting thing, that was just icing on the cake. Then I got busy with good things and put stand-up away,” he said. “Ironically, when I picked up stand-up again, suddenly all these other things started happening again, incidentally. So there’s something familiar about that because that’s how it started. It’s not by design, but it has been a fun year.”
The things luring him away this time were starring roles in the Oscar-nominated film “Whiplash,” as well as a recurring role in the FX series “Married.” Both came out in 2014 and now Reiser, 57, has a string of other shows and projects in the wings for this year. They include roles in the films “6 Miranda Drive,” a thriller with Kevin Bacon, and “Concussion,” an NFL drama co-starring Will Smith, as well as a part in the coming-of-age 1980s TV comedy “Red Oaks” by Oscar-winning executive producer Steven Soderbergh.
But it’s still in stand-up, Reiser said, where he has the most fun.
“I missed that because it’s really fun. It’s a different game than when I was doing it the first time. When you’re older, you know yourself better,” he said. . “Stand-up is so singular, it’s just you and audience.”
In the 1990s, Reiser and co-star Helen Hunt became household names during the seven-season run of “Mad About You.” The series, and Reiser, received multiple Emmy nominations during its tenure before it went off the air in 1999. It was during that time Reiser also wrote a string of best-sellers based on his brand of domestic humor, beginning with “Couplehood” in 1995 and followed by “Babyhood” in 1998 and then “Familyhood” in 2011.
That same year, Reiser made a short-lived return to network TV with “The Paul Reiser Show.” But the NBC series was canceled after two episodes. Reiser remains bullish about television, even if it isn’t on the traditional broadcast models. His new series, “Red Oaks,” will air later this year on Amazon.
He said the rise of streaming services like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu has been great for creative people and for viewers.
“It’s great because there are more places to do it. Instead of three places there are now eight, 10, 12 places. The model has changed. Instead of do 22, 24 episodes of a sitcom, you do 10,” he said. “It’s great for a show like ‘Red Oaks’ that is not about the laughs. It has its funny moments, but it’s about characters and centered around this kid who has his last hurrah before college and gets this job at the country club. I play this big shot at the country club. It’s not a show that necessarily would get on ABC, NBC, Fox. So (streaming services) are only a plus in my world.”
Still, he said, it’s on the road and with audiences that Reiser said he has found some of his most rewarding moments recently. Sometimes he does question-and-answer sessions with the crowd. And almost always he stops and signs books and pictures for fans afterward to meet people one-on-one.
“Invariably people come over with very personal stories about how (‘Mad About You’) meant something to them. There’s this joke they remember or they got married to the theme song. Or something from ‘Couplehood’ or ‘Babyhood’ they remember,” he said. “There’s this connection and a huge audience of people out there who enjoyed that world. Had I not been going out and meeting these people, I wouldn’t know. It’s rewarding to know you’re remembered for that kind of stuff.”
Though, he jokes, just because he has a hit show about being married doesn’t make him an expert. Reiser has been with his real-life wife since 1988 and the couple have two kids.
“Don’t listen to me; I’ve only done it one time,” he said. “I could be wrong.”