After more than 30 years in show business and starring in numerous hit television shows and movies, actor, writer and comedian Paul Reiser will make his first visit to Ponte Vedra when he performs at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall on July 28.
Reiser, who starred in “Mad About You,” “My Two Dads,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Aliens” and countless other TV shows and movies, returned to stand-up a few years ago after a nearly 20-year hiatus, and said performing live again felt like a homecoming.
“I have taken a long break from doing stand-up,” Reiser said. “When ‘Mad About You’ started, which was 1992, I was busy with the show, so I didn’t get out and perform. And then the show was over in ’99 and I was more than happy to stay home. I was writing and stuff, but I wasn’t performing.
“So, there was a long break,” he continued. “I had been meaning to get back out, but I was just waiting for the right moment, and I just jumped in. What I realized going back out there was it was this great feeling. It was sort of like getting together with old friends. I actually feel like the audiences who come to see me, they know me.”
In the meantime, Reiser has stayed busy writing books and scripts, producing and acting, and has found a lot of success on the major streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Reiser created and produced the TV series “There’s Johnny” for Hulu, which follows the story of a young man who gets a job with the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson in 1972. Reiser said that project was very special to him, not only because of his involvement behind the scenes, but because it also reminded him of a time when watching something on TV really meant something, because, back then, if you missed a show, you missed it.
“I kind of miss missing,” Reiser said. “You can’t miss anymore. With 'There’s Johnny,' which I was very proud of, it was about Johnny Carson in 1972, and as I was doing it, a couple of things struck me. In 1972, I was 15 or 16 and the highlight of my week would be staying up late on a school night to watch Johnny Carson when my favorite comedians were going to be on … it struck me the commitment to what you watch and the dedication that you don’t have now because there’s no rush. You can watch anything anytime, anywhere. … That’s why Johnny Carson was so unique. He was on for 30 years and he was in your living room and in your home in a way that nobody else is.”
Reiser was also part of a series on Amazon Prime. “Red Oaks,” which ran from 2014-2017, was a coming-of-age story set in the 1980s surrounding a country club in New Jersey. In addition, Reiser was a regular character on season 2 of the hit Netflix series “Stranger Things.”
When it comes to wearing different hats as an actor, writer or producer, Reiser said he doesn’t really have a favorite.
“They’re all fun, and they’re all different,” Reiser said. “It’s fun to have people over to your house and sometimes it’s nice to go to somebody else’s house.”
But stand-up is in a place all its own, he said.
“The Third World is doing stand-up, which is simpler,” Reiser said. “There are fewer moving parts. You get on a plane, tell your jokes and go home. That’s very refreshing to me. Luckily, I’ve been able to do all of them. I’m writing things now and I’m doing these shows, and, in between them all, continuing to do stand-up which is my first love. And you never really get over your first love.”
Reiser’s return to stand-up has also given him the opportunity to meet people across the country, and to find out how much certain shows or films he’s been a part of have resonated with them. Reiser does a meet-and-greet with fans after the show and has been surprised how often he’s been told about the impact of a particular episode of “Mad About You” or that a couple got married to the show’s theme song (which Reiser co-wrote and played piano for).
“It’s a very nice feeling, because you don’t know who’s out there or who is enjoying it, and then you get to meet up with the people and find out one way or another that they like what you did,” Reiser said. “That’s a pretty nice feeling.”
Reiser won’t say for sure what he’ll talk about in the show because sometimes he comes up with something on the fly, but he’s pretty clear on what the show won’t have.
“There will be no juggling, no singing or dancing, no animal acts,” he said. “And no politics.”
Reiser said he just looks forward to visiting new places, meeting new people and recapturing the allure of performing for live audiences.
“There aren’t many things that you can go back and replicate the same feeling that you had when you were 18,” he said. “But going back and doing stand-up was totally the same for me. It’s just as fun and exciting, and just as frustrating and elusive. Still figuring out why a joke works one minute and not the next. It’s still as intriguing a challenge as it was when I was 18.”
And while he may have played many types of characters on film, both comedic and dramatic, audiences can expect just one style at the live show.
“They didn’t come for a sad story, they came to laugh,” he said. “So hopefully, they’ll come, and they’ll go home laughing.”
And the audience isn’t the only one who leaves with something from the show.
“That’s the surprise bonus,” Reiser said “It’s just fun to see actual human beings and shake their hands and hear their stories. And often, it’s surprising.”