Comedy

Paul Reiser on Getting Back Into Stand-Up, Helen Hunt's Success, and How He Ruined Steve Buscemi's Comedy Career

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We asked Reiser about whether he's done with TV for the moment, as well as how he helped crush actor Steve Buscemi's fledgling stand-up career back in the day.

Was it hard getting back onstage after a 20-year absence? It wasn't hard. It was exciting. I'd forgotten how much I'd liked it. But it's like if you start to work out and you forget to warm up, it's like, "Woah . . . those are muscles I haven't used." And when I first went onstage again, it was fine. It wasn't like I was a total idiot, because I knew how to get laughs. But it was months and months before some of the subtitles came back. Remembering how your brain sort of works overdrive when you're onstage. It slowly revealed itself but it wound up being perfectly fine.

So you still got it. Yeah. I'm not as young as I used to be. [Laughs] Life changes, but there's comedy in all of it. And audiences still laugh because they're going through the same things. Whatever observations that you think are so special to yourself, turns out other people are thinking the exact same thing. They've just never said it out loud. That's why I have to go town to town, to say it out loud.

What sort of material are you using these days? Well, you'll see. [Laughs] I can't tell you now; it will all be shot. Like I said, talking about how it's different being older. And having teenagers is different than having no kids. After being married 25 years, a different kind of comedy comes out of it than going from single to . . .

So you're working with a whole different style than 20 years ago? Yeah, yeah. It's 'cause you're different, and what comes to mind is different. I always think of Bill Cosby as the perfect example of someone whose comedy has the same flavor over the last 50 years but the content itself has changed. So when he started out, he's talking about being newly married and having babies and changing diapers. Then it was having teenagers, and then being grandparents.

It's all still Cosby, but he's dealing with his life. I always thought that was great template and great role model and sort of what I've done, either by design or not -- 20 years ago talking about getting married and how it's different than being single. And now I've almost been married 25 years. It's a different conversation, but there's just as many funny things to find out it.

Um . . .Couplehood? Yeah. [Laughs] And the world has changed. So there's plenty of topics to cover and hopefully they'll be funny at my show. Here's my money-back guarantee. I tell people to come to the show, and if you don't have a great time, I'll come back to Chandler in a few months and I'll take you to see someone funnier. You can't beat that.

Did you ever make it Arizona 20 years ago, like a gig at the Tempe Improv? I can't remember. It sounds familiar. I was just in Lexington [Kentucky] and I thought, "Oh, I've never been here before." Then they showed me a picture of me performing at that club like 20 years ago. I went, "All right . . . I forgot." [Laughs] So for all I know, I could have a home in Chandler.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.