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updated: 1/17/2013 6:20 AM

Paul Reiser talks Zanies gig, family life and making music on Mars

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  • Comedian Paul Reiser is set to headline on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19, at Zanies in Rosemont.

      Comedian Paul Reiser is set to headline on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19, at Zanies in Rosemont.
    Courtesy of Personal Publicity

  • Video: Paul Reiser on "Ellen"

 
By Laura Stewart
lstewart@dailyherald.com

Comedian and actor Paul Reiser, perhaps best-known for his hit 1990s NBC sitcom "Mad About You," has recently returned to the stand-up comedy stage after a nearly 20-year hiatus.

Reiser, 55, who is also a composer, pianist and best-selling author, spoke with the Daily Herald about his upcoming stand-up show at Zanies in Rosemont, his thoughts on creating a successful marriage and how one of his musical compositions was once played on the planet Mars.

Q. Tell us about the upcoming show at Zanies?

A. I have rarely toured for the last 20 years. But I did a charity event about a year ago, and I so enjoyed being onstage again, I thought, "I've got to do this again." So I sort of feel like I am picking up the conversation with my audience where I left off. Except now, instead of talking about being newly married and having kids, I'm talking about being married for 25 years and having kids who are growing up. And the audience knows me now -- they have watched my shows, they have read my books. So I feel like I am sitting down with a group of friends. There is a real connection.

Q. Talking about your family and your home life seems to make up a big part of your act.

A. The comedy I like best turns out to be the most universal. When you talk about what is happening to you -- like trying to figure out how to be a good parent, or trying to figure out how to fix the computer. People always tell me "I just went through the same thing myself." When I was on "Mad About You," there was a lot of that -- a wife, watching the show and elbowing her husband, saying, "You do that, too!"

Q. This summer you and your wife will celebrate your 25th wedding anniversary. What have you discovered is the secret to a good relationship?

A. I'm updating those rules all the time. What I now maintain is the things you once thought you needed to talk through, you should never talk through (laughs). If you have something to say that you think will clear the air, don't say it. Try not to say anything (more laughs).

Q. Are you serious or funny at home?

A. I must be funny. I can see some of my humor in my kids, and it tickles me. Some years ago, when one of my sons was in the second grade, we had a parent-teacher meeting. The teacher said, "Your child is very smart, very sweet. But he does seem to distract the class and try and make them laugh." My wife was upset when she heard this, but my first thought was, "Did he get the laugh?" I guess it's in the blood.

Q. Do you enjoy being famous?

A. I have never looked in the mirror and thought about what I have accomplished. I have looked in the mirror and thought, "It's time to go back to bed." What always moves me is when fans come over and say that they remember you, and that your work means something to them. People will come up to me and say they had just gotten married when "Mad About You" was on, and that the show was a great source of comfort to them. When I am out signing my books and meeting people, I like to shake hands and look people in the eye. You get to see the connection you have made with your audience.

Q. Some people might not realize that you are a pianist and composer, and that you co-wrote "The Final Frontier," the theme song for the show "Mad About You." What do you think about that song being broadcast on Mars? (NASA selected the tune as "wake-up" music for its Mars Pathfinder rover Sojourner in July 1997).

A. It's nice to know that there are very few artists more popular than me on that planet.

Q. Do you keep in touch with Helen Hunt, your co-star from "Mad About You?" (Hunt was recently nominated for an Academy Award for best-supporting actress in the film "Sessions.")

A. Oh, yes we keep in touch. And keep those fingers crossed (for an Oscar win for Hunt).

Q. Do you see yourself doing comedy 20 years from now?

A. Yes. Stand-up is not like a career in baseball. You can carry comedy into your older years. Bill Cosby is still out there at 75. It's something you build on and keep connected with the audience. They grow with you. So hopefully, I will always be doing this -- making people laugh.

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