Event: Paul Reiser Stand-up
Venue: Florida Theatre
Date/Time: Nov 7 at 8pm
Legend has it that Elvis Presley refused to take the stage if he wasn’t playing to a sold-out house. A producer, so afraid that the star wouldn’t perform, once removed all of the empty seats before a show so Presley wouldn’t see them and after the show, put them all back.
From his early club days to selling out theaters and concert halls, Paul Reiser has never been the kind of star to go full Elvis. He even offers a personal guarantee to his audiences as an incentive to see his show. “If they come down and are not fully satisfied, I’ll come back to Jacksonville in a few months, and I will take them to see someone funnier,” he says. “Really, you can’t lose.”
Reiser is coming to the Florida Theatre Nov 7, regardless of ticket sales. “There’s got to be 2,000 people in Jacksonville who want to see me standing there, talking,” he says. “That’s what they’re going to see but hopefully they’re going to laugh.” His wry, observational humor highlights the funny things about life, love, and relationships to which everyone can relate. No matter where he is performing on any given night, Reiser finds comfort in knowing that his material strikes the same chords for audiences in Oklahoma as it does for crowds in San Diego or Maine. “I’m talking about me and my family and I’m talking about being married and having kids. It’s kind of universal and it’s really heartwarming that no matter where I go, people are going through the same things. Everybody’s got something and it’s always fun when they laugh,” he says.
Stand-up comedy is the ultimate litmus test for an artist to measure the impact of his work. It also significantly shortens the gestation period of an idea. “The immediacy is not to be under-estimated, not only of the laughter but just getting to do it”, he says. “When you do a TV show, it’s takes months and sometime years. You have an idea and you have to sell it to the studio then they have to approve it and go through all those steps. If you make it through that labyrinth to test it, then you get to see if it works. There are years between an idea and the audience enjoying it.”
Reiser put his stand up career on hold for the chance to play Paul Buckman opposite Helen Hunt as wife Jamie in the long-running sitcom, Mad About You. He described the concept to studio execs as, “the feeling of leaving a party with your significant other and you get in the car and as soon as that car door slams and it’s just the two of you, you start saying ‘boy, that guy was an idiot’ or ‘why did you say that’ and suddenly, you can be yourselves. I said put the camera in the backseat and that is the show,” he says. “When we were doing Mad About You, people would always say ‘it sounds like you’re talking about my family’. That’s when you know you zeroed in on the right stuff. When people are laughing at my show, I know I’m hitting the right stuff.”
Reiser also channeled his experiences as a husband and father into his stage act and a series of best-selling books, Couplehood, Parenthood, and Familyhood. “You do things long enough, you find what speaks to you and what speaks to other people. When I was doing stand-up back in the 80’s, my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, moved out to California and we lived together. I was doing all this material about what was happening with our relationship and how things are different when there’s somebody else in the house. Suddenly that material was head and shoulders above whatever else I was doing at the time. I always tell my wife and my kids, if it wasn’t for them, I would have no career,” he says,
Reiser returned to TV last year in the critically acclaimed FX series Married which was recently renewed for a second season. In 2013, he played the role of Mr. Felder opposite Matt Damon and Michael Douglas in the Steven Soderbergh-directed HBO movie Behind the Candelabra. He paired up again with Soderbergh to star in the new series for Amazon, Red Oaks. He is also enjoying a successful resurgence in his film career following his early performances in such films as Diner, Bye Bye Love, The Marrying Man, Aliens, One Night at McCool’s, and Beverley Hills Cop I and II. He had a supporting role in the Golden Globe winning movie Whiplash starring JK Simmons and Miles Teller and was also seen in the Sundance Film Festival award winner Life After Beth, a horror-comedy starring Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, and John C. Reilly.
Reiser will play opposite Kevin Bacon and Lucy Fry in the independent film 6 Miranda Drive based on the true story of a family that unwittingly brings a fear-feeding supernatural force home from vacation. He also stars alongside Will Smith and Alec Baldwin in the film Concussion, a timely drama about the dangers of playing in the NFL based on the GQ article “Game Brain”. “I kind of got lucky and got distracted and got to work in movies and TV. In my head I always wanted to get back to stand-up, but it took a while. It’s just as hard to do well as it was when I first started but getting up on stage and making people laugh is still a great feeling. It’s always fun to be part of a great movie or jump into a new project but as a continuum, stand-up is all I ever wanted to do,” says Reiser. “They’re all very different and they all have different disciplines and different appeal. If you do a TV show, more people see you in one night than see you in 30 years performing around the country. There is certainly something to be said for that and I am very proud of what we did on Mad About You. I co-created that and was very involved in every aspect of it. And then when you go and work on a movie, it’s fun to go and play in somebody else’s sandbox. It’s a very rewarding experience to let someone else be in charge and just go to work as an actor and play a different role. But to be honest, stand-up is always what I come back to and always what I look forward to. Here, you cut out all of those middle steps and you think of something at 5pm, you can tell the people at 8pm. I like that.” Catch Reiser at the Florida Theatre on Nov 7 at 8pm.