Paul Reiser is one of those familiar guys. His face is instantly recognizable and we’ve all known him for years, whether it was as Michael Taylor in the classic ’80s sitcom “My Two Dads,” starring alongside Helen Hunt in the ‘90s Must See TV fav “Mad About You” — which is now enjoying a second life thanks to a 2019 reboot — or as Dr. Sam Owens on the Netflix supernatural throwback “Stranger Things.” No matter where you recognize him from, Reiser has been a staple on television sets and in feature films for the better part of the last half century — a likeable, non-controversial funnyman not unlike his peers Ray Romano and Jerry Seinfeld. And like both of them, Reiser got his start as a standup comic before breaking into the mainstream. At 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, Reiser will return to his roots for an evening of live comedy at Harrah’s Resort. We were lucky enough to have a chat with him ahead of the big show.
Atlantic City Weekly: Though your stand-up is great, you are probably best known for your work on sitcoms. Do you prefer the stability of working on those type of shows as opposed to the traditional comic’s life ‘on the road’?
Paul Reiser: The truth is I have never really been a road warrior. Even now, I have been doing these shows at a very gentlemanly pace — a couple of shows a month. So it’s not like I have been living life on a Greyhound bus. In fact, it’s weird to say, but I keep hoping to do more (standup), but every time I start to add dates I end up being pulled into some commitment for a (TV) show. And the truth is the TV stuff has been great. I had my own show for seven years and that was nice, but I really missed doing standup. I took 20 years off. When “Mad About You” first started back in 1991 I stopped doing standup and I only got back into it about six years ago. And I really missed it. The truth is that (standup) is really the most fun thing. Like being on “Stranger Things” is great because it’s so cool and it’s a big show, but it ain’t fun. It’s definitely not as fun on a day to day basis as it is to get up onstage and see live human beings in the audience.
ACW: Right. With television you don’t have that immediate reaction.
PR: That’s part of what I love about standup. It’s so uncomplicated. There is no test audience, you don’t have to spend months financing it, you don’t have to deal with any studio notes. You just think up some jokes, you tell them to people, everyone has a good time and then you go home.
ACW: Being that you took such a long break from standup, do you ever look back on old bits and find yourself disagreeing with what you said, or viewing from a different perspective?
PR: When people ask me where I get my material from what I’m fond of saying is ‘I’m not smart enough to make anything up, so I can only talk about what actually happens to me,’ which is true. So when I was recently married, that’s how “Mad About You” came about. And this recent reboot of it deals with being older and now having a kid who is grown. So I still look for my material from the same places, but as you age, by definition, it changes. So when you are in your 60s there is a lot of stuff that is true now that wasn’t there when you were in your 30s, and stuff that was there that is no longer.
ACW: And, of course, most people in the world don’t have a permanent record out there of all the things they thought when they were 25. When you are on TV, everything lives on for eternity.
PR: Yeah you know it’s funny, we just did the 12 episodes of “Mad About You,” and besides being with the cast again and everything, what I had forgotten that I had missed was having an outlet to play out arguments that I had at home. It used to be that something would come up at home and I would think to myself ‘Oh - we have got to put that on the show!’ And I missed that. I welcome the outlet. And it’s there in standup too. I find that the audiences are laughing at a lot of what I’m saying not because I’m such a genius, but because they are thinking ‘oh wow — we thought it was just us, but this idiot is going through the same thing!’ And I’m onstage going ‘thank god they’re laughing, cause I thought it was just me.’ So we all kind of validate each other.
ACW: So there is a real connection with the audience in your act?
PR: Yeah and especially now that I’m back doing it after so long, it really feels like getting together with old friends. The audience coming to see me now has seen me on “Mad About You” and they know me, so there is a warmth and a connection that I didn’t have the first time around and it’s been really fun to experience.
ACW: Speaking of “Mad About You,” what made you guys decide to do the reboot?
PR: The truth is, we were very happy with the way we ended it the first time, and I’m not very nostalgic. I mean, I like to look back and everything, but I don’t want to go relive it.
But when all these reboots started happening we were asked if we wanted to do it. And Helen Hunt and I went out to lunch and we were laughing at the idea and saying how stupid it would be. But then we started to think about it more. And we realized that the idea of exploring things from a different point of view (after 30 years of marriage as opposed to newlyweds) was appealing.
The baby that we had at the end of the series would be going to college now. And that is an interesting point in a marriage to write about. And it’s sort of like the original show’s concept. The original show was about how after all the wedding hoopla dies down and it’s just the two of you, how is this thing going to work? And now all these years later when your kids grow up and leave the house you are faced with the same situation of ‘wow — it’s just us again.’ Only now you are both different people than you were and you have to figure out ‘who are we today as a couple?’ So we had fun writing from that perspective. And in the end the episodes all came out great. We are all really happy about it.