Movie star, sitcom icon, and legendary standup Paul Reiser gets back behind the mic for an upcoming Westchester performance.
If Paul Reiser is anything, he’s humble. The Mad About You star and celebrated standup chalks up much of his early success to simply being in the right place at the right time. “When I was just entering college is right when the comedy clubs as we know them now started to emerge,” recalls Reiser. “And that was a really fortunate thing for me. It was sort of like a beacon; once I got there, it just felt like the right place to be.”
Although Reiser not only starred in but helmed Mad About You, and appeared in major motion pictures ranging from Aliens to Beverly Hills Cop, he still views standup as his true calling. “It’s funny that I am rediscovering my love of standup, since that’s all I started out to be,” he says. “My idols were never actors. My heroes were comics: Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Robert Klein, George Carlin.” This is not especially surprising, considering Reiser is currently on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest standup comedians of all time.
Westchester residents will have an opportunity to see just why Reiser is considered comedic royalty when he takes the stage at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theater in Peekskill on June 10. Believe it or not, the venue already holds a special place in the funnyman’s heart. “The Paramount is a beautiful theater,” says Reiser. “It was there I presented a film I wrote for Peter Falk called The Thing About My Folks, and I recall that it was such a great space.”
In his upcoming standup gig, the comedian will riff on a range of topics similarly close to his heart. “I am talking about the same stuff I was talking about in Mad About You: relationships and family,” shares Reiser, who is the father of two young men. “But your 50s are very different from your 30s, and being married for years, with growing kids, is very different from being newlyweds. So, the material changes, but the things that fascinate me and the things that I find funny have really been consistent.”
This consistency is based in Reiser’s genuine appreciation for the stage. “If I talk about an argument I had with my wife or a running challenge with my kids, the audiences are laughing because, hopefully, it’s funny. But for me it’s cathartic, because I can’t complain to my wife about my wife, but I can complain to strangers,” he says with a laugh.
Even Reiser’s monumental TV work and blockbuster films, he contends, are a product of these candid performances. “Mad About You really came out of my standup,” he explains. “My girlfriend at the time had just moved out to L.A., and I was doing a lot in my act about living together and being engaged—that was the material I was enjoying the most. At that time, I was asked about creating a show, and if I was going to do one, I wanted it to be about the stuff that interested me. A relationship is as small as you can get but, at the same time, it is a huge arena and subject matter.”
This adherence to his personal values and background certainly paid off. Mad About You was one of the biggest sitcoms of the ’90s, winning a Golden Globe and earning five Emmy nominations. The result is that Reiser—who has also written three bestselling books—still has a foot rooted firmly in screens both big and small. He is currently starring in the successful Amazon Studios comedy Red Oaks and has roles in three upcoming feature films: The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, War on Everyone, and The Darkness, which features actor Kevin Bacon. Reiser also recently appeared alongside Will Smith in the acclaimed 2015
Yet, despite these successes, Reiser always regretted his lengthy absence from the stage. “It is funny that it took me so long to get back to standup, because it is the thing I genuinely enjoy doing more than anything else,” he shares. “It is great to see yourself in a film, but I don’t think actually doing them is much fun. The same with a TV show: It’s great to write them and have the fun and excitement of mounting one, but, for me, there is nothing as genuinely fun and joyful as standing onstage.”
And when it comes to hitting the stage, New York is undoubtedly one of Reiser’s favorite places to be. “When I am in New York, it just feels like home. Whether it is the accent or the speed of delivery or just the fact that your references are the same,” says Reiser, who is a homegrown Big Apple product himself. “So, everything is about 10 to 15 percent funnier.”
But all joking aside, Reiser is serious about his love of standup and views it as an essential aspect of both his character and career. “I always want to be doing standup. Part of me would love to turn everything else off and just do that,” he admits. “I find that when I do standup more, I grow more; I learn more. There is a continuum about it.”