FAIRFIELD — Comedian/actor/author/musician Paul Reiser returns to his first love, standup comedy, for a one-night-only show at the Napa Valley Opera House on March 23. Reiser rose to prominence in the 1982 film “Diner” and starred with Helen Hunt in the successful sitcom “Mad About You” from 1992 to 1999.
Reiser has authored three books, “Couplehood,” “Babyhood” and “Familyhood,” and recently returned to standup after a 20-year absence.
Q: You are a musician – did you ever consider pursuing that?
A: Growing up, everyone wanted to be the Beatles and from 1968 to 1970 we had a very cool band. We made over $300 in that time to give you an idea of the scope of our reach. We sold out over a four-block radius. As a thinking adult, I never thought about music as a real option. Even the few things I have done, like the “Mad About You” theme song, was a fun thing that happened last minute by accident.
Q: “Diner” was a life changer for you, correct?
A: Yeah, it was my first job. I went from zero to something. I wasn’t the star and the movie wasn’t a mega-hit, but it was big enough to get attention so I was able to come out to California with a calling card: “I’m the guy in that movie that’s not on the poster.” I will often hear from people who have a strong fondness for that movie. There are groups of guys who get together and watch it together who watched it when it first came out.
Q: You can’t fake the kind of chemistry you had with Helen Hunt on “Mad About You,” can you?
A: That was one of those fortuitous breaks. I had met Helen just about the time I was writing the show. She was funny and smart and lovely and perfectly neurotic in a fun way, so when we read it for the first time, it felt really right. I wouldn’t have guessed that the she would be the pretend love of my life, but it was a good fit.
Q: How did you get back into standup?
A: I do charity events and while it’s not really performing – I mean, you get up there, you bring up the mayor, tell a few jokes, and you go home. But I did one and it was a really fun audience and I had a great time and when I got off stage I remembered how much I loved doing it.
So I started writing new material. It was different having not done it in 20 years. I’m older. They tell me a show is at 10 o’clock and I say “At night?” So there were adjustments. Now if people come to see me they remember “Mad About You” or have read the books so it really feels like getting together with old friends.
Q: Are you on any social media?
A: I’m the last guy standing. I don’t tweet, but I’m told I have to start. I’m like a troglodyte. I like meeting people in person after the show. There’s still something different about shaking a hand and seeing a face. You can’t get more direct than that.
Q: This is your first performance in Napa so what can fans expect?
A: I’ve always joked that I’m not smart enough to make things up so I have to talk about what actually happens. When you are married 25 years it is not the same as being a newlywed. Being in your 50s is not the same as being in your 20s. When I talk about stuff that is true for me, it rings a bell and the audience relates to it. I just talk about life and kids and family and getting older – how every week something doesn’t work quite as well as it did last week. People laugh because they are going through the same stuff. Audiences come and say “Oh, It’s not just me!” but I’m on stage thinking “Oh, they’re laughing, so it’s not just me!”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.