Veteran comic actor Paul Reiser returns both to weekly television and to NBC in his new sitcom, The Paul Reiser Show, which is a semi-autobiographical look at his own life. Paul Reiser plays Paul Reiser, an actor who hasn't appeared regularly on television in several years. While he is enjoying his home life with his wife and kids, he also spends a lot of time with his group of guy friends – all of whom seem to be made up from the fathers of his kids' friends or the husbands of his wife's friends. The series follows Paul and his comrades as they search for the next big thing in their lives.
USTOWNHALL SPEAKS TO PAUL REISER OF THE PAUL REISER SHOW:
USTH: Glad to see you back on television. Your new series is a single camera filmed show. How is that different for you since a lot of your experiences have been in three camera with a studio audience? How has it been acclimating yourself to the new format?
PAUL REISER: The irony is I always wanted to do single camera even when we did Mad About You. I originally pitched it as a single camera, which they didn't do back then and it has come into play. As fun as it was to have a live audience, I never really felt that comfortable with it. I love it when I do stand-up – it's great to have an audience – but I always felt that when doing a show, it kind of distracted me a bit and this feels just perfect and right and it has a much more real-life quality, which is what the show is really about.
I mean hopefully people recognize it and they go, "Oh, okay that really feels real, these are real people." I'm playing myself, and it's obviously accelerated a bit and it's because it's a comedy, but that part of it feels right, and it looks exactly like the show that I wanted to make so I'm very pleased with it.
USTH: You have a very eclectic cast there. When I saw that Omid Djalili would be part of the cast, I assumed he would be playing a Middle Eastern character. Are you using that as story material – I guess your character is Jewish, and his character might not be Jewish – is that part of the story material or are the differing backgrounds just presented matter-of-factly as "We're just a bunch of different people who happen to hang out together"?
PAUL REISER: Well, it's more that. It's more the latter, and it's really based on my group of [real-life] friends, and one of the premises of the show is sort of that when you're a father of kids – I find most guys have backed me up on this – that you realize your friends are not people of your own choosing – that your friends are all fathers of your kids' friends or husbands of your wife's friends.
And in my case this has certainly been true. And I have this world of friends that I look around and go, "How did I get these people"? Omid's character, Habib, is based on a couple of friends of mine who are Persian, and one of the things that makes me really thrilled about the show is the sort of diversity of the characters. They all have such comedic styles, and Omid is hugely powerfully funny, and he's a huge comic in the UK and I'm hoping this show reintroduces him. He was on Whoopi's show ten years ago [Whoopi, which aired in the 2003-2004 television season], but I hope America gets to see him every week because he's just absurdly funny.
And Andy Daly, who is a totally different look and based on another friend of mine who looks like him, has a huge following in the comedy community, and he's really a clever, inventive comic and has really sly timing.
And Duane Martin who is a whole other feel and not known as a comic, but is just really also in his own way very funny and such a delightful screen presence.
And Ben Shenkman who has this very New York acerbic – his own cerebral tone, and Amy Landecker has her own comedy style.
So there's such a nice, eclectic group of performers, and there are no cheap jokes. There are no jokes at the expense of anybody being Persian. I think it certainly adds a color to the show, but these are guys who are just friends.
USTH: You mentioned Amy Landecker. Can you talk a little bit about the balance of the show's stories between you and your guy friends and your character and his home life with his wife? Is it going to be more with you and the guy friends and maybe just a little bit of Amy, or will it be more evenly balanced?
PAUL REISER: Yes, I think it has become that. One of the things that's really fun about this is this show to me is everything that Mad About You had and then so much more. I mean at the heart of it, it's really based on my life and my life starts with my family and that is the priority, so it always comes down to – and for all these guys in the show – it comes down to, "Well here's what's going on in the home and here's what's going on with my wife and my kids."
But you rarely see the kids in the show. They inform the show and you're doing things and you're running around doing stuff for your kids, but you're not going to see them much by design. And Amy – there's a lot of great stories of husband and wife stuff, but they really serve to ground the other stories.
I think the kick-off for all the stories is about the guys, and that's an element we didn't have in Mad About You that is so fun to explore, and it was not really part of my life 15 years ago, and now it is, and now I have this group of guy friends that you suddenly find yourself driving to Disneyland with these two guys for three hours so, okay, this is my life now.
And so, the stories almost always come from the guys, or they start with the wife perhaps but they filter into, "Okay, now I'm off and running with these other guys." And these guys are such strong performers, we thought, "When are we going to get stories with just them?" And we thought probably not 'til season 2 or 3, but we found even in the first six-seven episodes, we were able to cut away to two of the guys, and it was great. It's really an ensemble show in every sense of the word.
USTH: As far as television producing is concerned, did you learn anything from your Mad About You experience that's informing your decision-making process now?
PAUL REISER: Absolutely, yes, seven years of Mad About You, I learned what worked for me, and I learned what works and what doesn't work, and going into this, I just knew I wanted to make it a certain style, and I wanted – sometimes just the way you structure the workday. I mean, I knew I wanted this to be surrounded by friends and I have. I called friends that are directors.
Helen Hunt was the first director I called, and Daniel Stern is an old friend and Brian Gordon, and it's just a very sane – at this point you know you want to do your work but you want to get home. I think gone are the days where people say let's hang out until 3 in the morning and eat Chinese food and never see our families.
I think people want to get home and have a life as well as do a show, so it's really been run very efficiently, and that was very much by design.
USTH: Our thanks to Paul Reiser for speaking with us today. The Paul Reiser Show premieres Thursday, April 14 on NBC.