Don't get Paul Reiser wrong. The Mad About You star is thrilled to be back on both the small and big screens in such a big way, from FX's Married to films Behind the Candelabra, Whiplash and the upcoming Concussion (opposite Will Smith) and 6 Miranda Drive (opposite Kevin Bacon). But he's even more passionate about his current standup tour, which teases such topics as love and relationships. The comedian joked with SF Weekly about his new show, why he loves the stage more than the screen and why there will never be a Mad About You reunion.
[jump] In your current standup show you talk about love, life and the funny things about relationships.
I always tell people I'm not smart enough to make things up, so I just talk about what actually happens. But the fun part is when I talk about stuff with my wife or my kids or about the “joys” of getting older. It turns out it's not just me. The audience laughs because it’s their story, too.
Relationships are a topic you've been exploring in your comedy for years, especially on Mad About You.
A good deal of it is about marriage, and kids. Yeah, it’s weird to have somehow become known for that little area of comedy. But, I'll tell you, it never ceases to boggle the mind and entertain. That’s why the theme song of Mad About You was called “The Final Frontier.” You never quite get to the end of it. The minute you think you have relationships figured out, something comes along to slap you in the head, and you realize you're not there yet.
When you're so associated with a TV show like Mad About You, does that increase or decrease future acting opportunities?
Did Mad About You hurt me? No, that was nothing but good. Mad About You was a huge part of my life and opened a lot of doors. It’s just that when the show was over, I was really most interested in stepping back and not working for a while. Well, I was working — I wrote and produced a bunch of TV projects that I wasn’t acting in — and that was really fun. But, no, it just took a while for me to accumulate enough downtime that I was ready to get out there again.
Might there be a Mad About You reunion?
No, that’s not going to happen. When we made the finale in 1999, we tried to show where the relationship went over the next 20, 25 years. I figured that would answer any questions. No need to go back and get everybody back together just so the people at home can go “Wow — look how much older they look!”
You have made such a spectacular comeback with FX's Married and all these acclaimed films, such as Behind the Candelabra and Whiplash. Was there a conscious decision on your part to take on more work, or was it just fortuitous?
The truth was it was simply a period where I was enjoying being less active and then decided it was time to get active again. Ironically, it all seems to always flow from the standup.
Mad About You was born out of my standup act at the time, which was all stuff about being newly married. And then after the show, I always planned to get back into doing standup. But for whatever reasons, I kept kicking the can down the road, till a few years ago I just decided to jump in and do it. And I started the same way I started 30 years ago. I called up the local comedy club here and went in with a couple of minutes of material, and night after night, it grew into something more. Then when I was out on the road and performing again, that’s exactly when — for seemingly coincidental reasons — all these lovely projects seem to come my way.
There was certainly no plan, and I don’t think it was related. Just sort of ironically linked. And I have been able to pick and choose projects that seem fun and interesting and [enable me to] work with people that I'm excited to work with.
Are you more excited about TV or film projects?
They’re all fun and all different. But I have to say, finally getting back to standup, which is where I started, is by far the most fun. You don’t have to wait for all these other variables — no studio, no executives, no three-month shooting schedule. You just think of something and go try it on stage. No market testing. Your audience is your testing, every night.
Most people don't know that you're also a musician. How do you fulfill your need for musical creativity amid everything else?
Music is something I’ve always had in my life, and I play all the time. It just seemed very separate from what I do for a living. It was never really a public thing, though getting to write with great artists Julia Fordham and my old friend Melissa Manchester — that’s been a nice treat.
How do you balance work and marriage? Do you have any secrets for a successful marriage that you can share?
Travel. Get on the road. It gives them a chance to miss you.
Paul Reiser, May 29-30, at Cobb's Comedy Club, ($27.50), 915 Columbus Ave, 928-4320 or cobbscomedyclub.com.