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The Paul Reiser Show Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is a transcript of an interview with Paul Reiser on April 6, 2011 about the show The Paul Reiser Show.

Paul Reiser

Question:
This show is a one camera filmed show. A lot of your experiences have been in three camera with a studio audience. How has it been different for you and acclimating yourself to the new format?

Paul Reiser:
Yes 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. You know, 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.

Question:
I noticed you have a sort of a very eclectic cast. How did that come about?

Paul Reiser:
It's really based on my group of 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 kid's friends or husbands of your wives 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. 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. There's such a nice eclectic group of performers.

Question:
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.

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 starts 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, for all these guys in the show, 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 sort of 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 this 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 sometimes have 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.

Question:
As far as television producing is concerned, did you learn anything from your Mad About You experience that you are using now 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 it was very much - there were certain decisions I just knew I wanted to make it a certain style andsometimes just the way you structure the work day. I mean I knew I wanted this to be surrounded by friends and I hcalled 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.

Question:
Since the show is based on some real life moments, how do your wife and kids feel about some story lines maybe making it into the show that come from real life?

Paul Reiser:
That's a good question. On a good day they're very tickled; on the other days they're going why did you tell them that. But you know what, my brilliant partner Jonathan Shapiro he's putting his family in there too and one of the great thing about having a partner is you get to hide behind the other guy and go honey that was really more his wife so we feel that enough names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Question:
Why now?

Paul Reiser:
I felt America needed me. I'm joking. It's a very good question. I wasn't at all looking for it, there was no design and this came about, to be honest, a very nice executive over at Warner Brothers called and said I want to sit down and talk to you about something and I didn't know what it was and then when I sat down he said we'd like you to develop something for you and we want you to be back on TV and I went why, I said what you said, why you just missed that, whatever that was.

There are people who want that sort of his words were saying you're sort of adult, smart heart-felt comedy and I said we'll, I'm really kind of enjoying staying home with the kids and geez when you do a TV show you have to really wake up early and everything and work hard and - but it was I'm nothing if not susceptible to flattery and nice things.

So he said why don't you go write something that you feel like writing and let's see what happens and I went away and this show came out of it and I didn't know what it was going to be to be honest and I just wrote my life and when it was done I thought this was really fun, this would be a fun show to watch for me and I know people would watch this and I felt like this is a good way for me to do my comedy.

And having the 10/11 years not being out there really was something I wanted and as it turns out it kind of very much gave me the genesis for what the show because that I wouldn't have known. You know, if you put a gun to my head three, four, five years ago I wouldn't have been able to come up with the show but because I was really living that life of not being out there and being a guy who use to be on TV and being a guy whose job and daily life is taking the kids to school and putting out the little domestic fires, not literally, that suddenly when I started to look at it, I thought that's actually very rich and very universal so the timing just seemed right.

Question:
Didn't you miss being away from television or movies for 11 years?

Paul Reiser:
Well you know, I was working, I was doing little things. I certainly wasn't out there, I wrote a movie that I had wanted to write for years that I finally got to write with Peter Falk, I had always wanted to write that specific movie with Peter Falk playing my father and I got to do that. Last year I got to finally do a music project. I was a music major in college and I always thought gee when I take some time off I'll write some music and last year I sort of accidentally fell into this music project. I wrote an album of songs with Julia Fordham who's a great singer. So she's an old friend and I one day said I've been writing music and would you consider looking at this and see if you want to maybe make this into a song and she took it away and made a beautiful song and suddenly we said let's do another. And before you knew it we had an album. So we have an album actually out on ITunes, I love that nobody's ever heard of it.

So I got to do a lot of stuff, I wasn't just really sitting staring into space and I had written and produced a bunch of pilots, about six pilots, that I was not acting in. So I was certainly keeping active and creative but I wasn't at all looking to be on TV, I really wasn't and I wasn't fighting it either, it just didn't come up. But when this opportunity really opened invitation and just write something that you think you might want to be in, with that kind of open gesture and not a lot of pressure, what came out was really felt good. So it felt like the timing was right and I couldn't be more proud of the show.

Question:
Are you introducing any of this music on the show?

Paul Reiser:
No, it has nothing to do with anything. The music is really just a side project but feeling if you are encouraged, it's called Unusual Suspects and you can get it on ITunes and amazon and feel free to play it in your home.

Question:
Is there anything done on the set that's eco friendly and what are you doing at home to be more so?

Paul Reiser:
We actively recycle and we try to be economical and we've taken as much as we can, we've taken plastic out of the house and my kids are trying to understand, really, I can just take water out of the sink. Yes, you don't have to waste a new bottle every minute. And between your work and our show I believe we will clean up the planet. You do most of the heavy lifting and we'll put out the jokes to entertain them while they're cleaning and vacuuming the world.

Question:
Will you be writing anything as far as a theme song or anything?

Paul Reiser:
Yes, I co-wrote the theme song, it's not a song, it's an instrumental but with a great musician named Steven Argilla, and he and I wrote this sort of tangoie pop thing which I really like and it makes me laugh and I don't think there will be other music on the show. You know it's always been kind of a separate thing for me, I have no way to explain it other than it's sort of just a side project. But you never know, maybe we'll get some great music. You know, it's really fun, because I play myself on the show, and there's a reality to it, so anybody who comes on the show has to be themselves. So Larry David is playing himself, we had Henry Rawlins playing himself, so we can get some cool musicians as themselves and who knows what can happen.

Question:
Any other guests that you want to drop a name?

Paul Reiser:
Well, yes, we have, well I don't know who else, but we have Mark Burnett, we had one the episodes where, the first episode up where I'm offered a game show and say let's give my friend Mark Burnett to play Mark Burnett because why fake it. So there's a real realty feel to it and that's been - and some of my friends, Daniel Stern, who is my old buddy who I met on my first job, diner, a thousand years ago, he's become a great director and he directed a great episode and Helen Hunt directed an episode and Fred Savage directed a great episode, so it's really a wonderful - one of the nice things that people are responding to it and people who might not necessarily want to just do any show are coming on board and playing with us and it's been a great experience.

Question:
In real life, have you been offered game shows from time to time. Do you have a snobbish attitude towards them?

Paul Reiser:
No, not a snobbish attitude but I didn't really want to leave the house, I was very comfortable. And even within the house I didn't want to get up, I was very happy sitting down so I was really enjoying working at a leisurely pace on great projects and periodically something will come up and I'll go I don't know that I really want to do that. It wasn't snobbish - and Mark Burnett, it's ironic, Mark Burnett is a friend, our kids became friends out here and so we became friends and he's periodically call me would you, would you be interested in doing a thing. I'd say Mark, I love you, I don't know that I'm the best for that, there's people who are better at that, and he says no, but you would be so funny, don't you see Paul and I'd go I appreciate that, it's awfully sweet.

So when it came, we were writing this episode, I said well we have to just call Mark and have him be Mark and so those conversations were actually had. But don't you see Paul, your misery would be entertaining for others, I went, yes, I don't know that I want to do that. But I it was never snobbism, it was just that I don't know that I can do that and there are people who do it terrifically and bless them. It's hard work, its hard work to be funny every day doing that.

Question:
All of these different people that are on the show are people you are familiar with but maybe the other actors on the show weren't so familiar with, did you find that there was a gelling between everyone?

Paul Reiser:
Oh my gosh. Yes we, it was an unbelievable thing, we kind of all fell in love and the five guys were all just getting such a kick out of each other and such unique senses of humor. You know Ben Shenkman is a brilliantly trained actor and theater actor and he's done a lot of TV too and you wouldn't know from his work necessarily that he's so funny. He's done a lot of drama but he's an unbelievably informed student of comedy and will quote every comedy ever made and he's brilliant and we just had to say what do that, be funny, don't be afraid to that guy and Omid Djalili is 27 different flavors of funny and we would just sometimes we would lose a lot of time just because we would crack up and he was just too funny and I'd be off camera weeping and they'd go hold on we heard Paul crying and laughing.

And you know Amy Landecker, I had seen her in A Serious Man and had never seen her before that and I thought she was fantastic and then I had no idea, that was kind of going into this, I didn't have any actors in mind, it was really a nice, clean fresh approach. Someone said how about that woman from A Serious Man for your wife and I went wow, sure, she looks good and she came in and it was very much like with Helen Hunt, it was one of those you had me at hello. She came into read for the part and just chatting for two minutes, we said you know what, done, you don't have to read, you got it, and that's it, she was just so lovely and funny and offbeat and perfectly neurotic, I went yes, that's what my wife needs to be, all of those things. So not that my wife is in anyway neurotic, by the way, I made that up for comedic impact, my wife is perfectly, always not neurotic, put that down, all right, good, she's gone, not a word of this to my wife.

Question:
How many other actors were considered for the role of Paul Reiser?

Paul Reiser:
You know what, the original Paul Reiser, not only is he older and out of shape, but he wanted too much money so we went looking around, nobody would do it, nobody would do it, Seinfeld, yes, not for this kind of money, Seinfeld wouldn't do it, Gary Shandling, we had a call into Jack Benny's office, I have not heard back, so ultimately I just did it.

Question:
You had to step up?

Paul Reiser:
Yes, you know what, it worked out fine. Because I knew the jokes already.

Question:
I have a question regarding your love/hate relationship with the word nuance. Why did that become your production company as opposed to gesture?

Paul Reiser:
That's a good question; you know what, what a specific thing. Now in fact, and help me to remember, in the movie diner when I discussed those two words, I think nuance was the one I didn't like, right. And gesture was the word I did like. I think - but I think nuance is just funnier and it was a funnier word and people remember that as the nuance bit and somehow it just always struck me as what should my company be called and I - I don't know where that came from but I said that seems perfect.

Question:
So you were never comfortable as model with the word gesture?

Paul Reiser:
Never comfortable and I thought by making that the name of my company, it would force me to be comfortable with the word nuance, that's what it was. I set myself to the challenge of becoming comfortable with nuance. That's a great question, the other 39 people are not interested, but you and I are having a great time.

Yes, also, if you notice, the end of logo, nuance is the little - my little finger coming in and moving say one molecule up and as my friends like to give me grief, I constantly do that and like can we just do that joke and change one word and can use the same shirt but with one less button. So I do enjoy these small nuances of change.

Question:
Since the show is based around your life, how do you balance playing the real you as compared to the needs of yourself as a character?

Paul Reiser:
I don't, I live on the set and have camera men running the whole time. Cause once I get home, by the way nobody's laughing and my kids and my wife, I'll be honest, after ten years they've had enough of me. There happy to share me with some others. There's enough mixture of experiences from my life and my writing partners, producing partners life that it doesn't get too confusing and plus these are not my actual family so I have a whole pretend wife and pretend children and pretend friends. So far, it seems to be working. We'll see, call me in a year, we'll let you know.

Question:
When you look at the life and relationships now as compared to earlier in your career, how has this been easier to notice the comedy in real life?

Paul Reiser:
Somebody said in a way Mad About You felt very autobiographical to me at the time but it was fictional, I had a different name, and I wasn't playing really myself but I was sort of mining my life and someone said this is really Mad About You, that relationship 15 years later. In the beginning they were newlyweds and no there was a lot of neurotic, gee is our relationship going to work, well its 20 years in now and yes, we're in, nobody's looking at the door and thinking of getting out.

You're you and for good, mostly good, and sometimes they're tough days but there are kids, there's life it's a much more mature grounded point in life and it's a great point in life. I mean this, you know somebody said we'll is this, somebody said compare it to Raymond men of a certain age and I said well, that show was great, but it's very different and those guys are, it seems, there is a lot of pontificating and observing gee we're getting old.

And this show comes at it from a very different place, this comes from I'm older, yes, I don't feel old, but it's really, it's very much enjoying life and enjoying the challenges. It's like okay how do I balance these knuckle head friends and kids who keep bringing in problems and stuff is coming at you, it's really at the moment where life - you don't know what life is throwing at you and basically what I was joking before, I just want to sit down, but you can't, life doesn't let you sit down because a kid runs into a refrigerator and needs stitches and the other kid has a problem in school and your wife needs you to go do this.

You don't really get to sit down and you know, not to be philosophical, life is always throwing something at you and that's the comedy and that's the heart of this show is like how do you deal with life and there's small things everyday in the episodes there are tiny things that people go through, people relate to and it feels like that's really the heart of the show is just seeing it from this point in life.

Question:
Of all the pilots that you've produced over the past decade, were there any that you were particularly disappointed they didn't get picked up?

Paul Reiser:
Yes, all of them. I was actually really fond of all of them. There are one or two that I would still like to do and produce. There was one that we did and which was called The Ripple Effect and it was about how unrelated people affect each other's lives. But it was done in a very funny and sometimes dramatic way that you're in a bad mood and you and somebody says something to you so you get in your car and now you're angry and you hit somebody and that affects seven other people and at the heart of it was this very global conceit that we are indeed all connected and you never know how and, yes, it was a little like babble but funnier and shorter. And that still really intrigues me and that's one that I'd love to do so if you know anybody who's buying let me know.

Question:
Did Larry David gave you any advice on playing yourself on TV?

Paul Reiser:
No, Larry David, I called Larry and I said I'm sure you're not going to want to do this, but we wrote this part for you, you've got to do it and he was so gracious, he says, here's the thing, I don't like to memorize scripts so we'll improvise it and I said done, let's do that.

And I got very nervous to be honest with you because he's brilliant, he has developed that art form and he's just really a genius and I felt when we did that scene I felt like I was getting into the rink with Ali, I went let me just keep running around and hopefully I won't get hurt and it was a two-minute scene and we have 45 minutes of tape because he was no brilliantly funny, that was the longest most challenging editing thing was getting Larry down to the time we had allotted on the show.

But he was so great and somebody had said early on well this show Paul, it's sort of like your curb, and I went yes, that's fair and it's a very different feel but yes in that I'm playing me and Larry plays himself and so on so that we improvised that scene and when Larry says to me hey Paul you know what you should do, you should do your own version of my show, A Curb, I went - my head kind of exploded frankly because I go if he were actually filming my show and you're telling me that.

And you know my friends, I have a friend who is constantly rides me about, he goes you come off as Mr. Nice Guy on TV, you're Mr. Sweet, Nice Guy but I know you, you're not that nice and I go I know that but America doesn't know that. So we got to do that in the scene really made me laugh and Larry David of all people saying you're so much worse than me, that made me laugh to be honest, that's my favorite joke in the whole show.

Question:
How do you feel the show will stand apart from other sitcoms?

Paul Reiser:
It's the only one on at our time slot and I don't think anybody else can say that, there is no other show on on NBC while we're on. You know what, I think it has a very unique flavor and it has such a diverse and rich cast and comedicly diverse, each of the guys, to be honest, each of these guys should have their own show, that's how funny they are and the fact that they all wanted to come on board as an ensemble, yes, and Duane had his own show, and Omid's had several shows and Andy Daly was in the middle of developing his own show and so it's such a, to me, I love to come into work just to be with these people and these actors and Amy and it's just really rich.

And someone said how is it different than Curb It, even in fact on the show we have Marv Burnett going well we wanted to go with Larry but he's not likable and somebody said it's different to the extent that also then I'm different than Larry and there's hopefully there's a heart to the show, not that Larry's doesn't have a heart, but he just goes the other way in his comedy. He's a tremendously sweet guy. But its I think it has the best of many worlds, Cosby use to talk about how the best comedies are like a hearth and you can warm your hands up to it and I think this show is so universal, it has that, but it also has some brilliant comics in it and a lot of surprises and I think it has a flavor of its own.

And you know, one of the things about TV and launching a new TV show that is the trickiest is everybody wants you to be a hit right away and you have to come out with huge numbers and I have never felt that I could do that with anything, I'm not reinventing the wheel here and I don't think - and this show was kind of thrown suddenly very quickly and I don't expect that we're going to come out and we're going to beat American Idol, we're not that show, but I do know that this is the show that week after week will build and people will if given it's chance, and people leave it in its spot, which is something networks don't like to do, but I'm tremendously confident that if you just put this on and leave it, there will be a huge audience that will find it and it won't be 200 million people, but there will be many, many people who will be drawn to the show and so I can't wait for it to get on the air.

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