From 1992 to 1999, NBC’s “Mad About You” endeared viewers with its weekly glimpse into the lives of neurotic thirty-somethings Paul and Jamie Buchman.
Created by Paul Reiser and Danny Jacobson, the show utilized strong performances and keen observational humor to make viewers empathize with the daily minutiae of married life. Reiser and co-star Helen Hunt forged an irrefutable chemistry that propelled the show even when the writers were still trying to find their voice. Their issues and free-spirited back-and-forth became a wealth of comedic gold during the show’s strongest seasons, which, by most accounts, occurred later on in the timeline.
By the time the show wrapped, a slew of professional accolades had been bestowed upon it, including four consecutive Emmy wins for Hunt from 1996-1999.
When a major program such as “Mad About You” or “Seinfeld” ends, its stars are often left trying to recreate their past glory to no avail, but, for Reiser and Hunt, the creativity just kept on coming.
Hunt went on to films and an Oscar for 1997’s “As Good As it Gets,” and Reiser turned his attention to writing, acting, and releasing an album of piano-based compositions in 2010 called, “Unusual Suspects,” with singer Julia Fordham.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Reiser recently about his upcoming stand-up engagement at Seneca Allegany Casino on Saturday and his sharp witticisms are guaranteed to keep the audience on its toes.
MNOD: What made you decide to hit the road again?
Reiser: Well, I had kind of put stand-up away for a while, because the show began in 1992. I’ve done various charity events here and there, so I never really stopped entirely. I did a few shows around Los Angeles and the whole idea of going back out on the road grew organically. I think I’ll have a lot more fun this time around, because the audience and I have a connection through the material and books I’ve written.
MNOD: How has your material evolved through the years?
Reiser: It’s like getting together with old friends after all these years, really. Of course, your perspective on things changes from your 20s to your 50s, but I still talk about the same things I always have. I’ve been married for 25 years now, so that adds another element to my material. Your body changes, your biology changes. Everyone in the audience is dealing with similar things, so they relate to that.
MNOD: When you reflect back on your time on “Mad About You,” what are some of your lasting memories?
Reiser: We were a very tight family. We spent hours together trying to make the show the best it could be and I’m proud of how well it holds up. We always kept the quality up and never overstayed our welcome on the air. Everything we wanted to do on the show, we did. Whatever topic we wanted to delve into, we dealt with.
MNOD: Given the shift in popular culture today, would you consider going back into television?
Reiser: I’m currently developing some shows, but that’s the nice thing about doing stand-up. There’s no development, you just go out there and get an immediate response as to whether something is good or bad. Getting a laugh is the best measure of how well you’re doing.
MNOD: You recently worked on Steven Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra” with Michael Douglas. What was that experience like?
Reiser: It was quick, really. I had a small part that took only a day or two to shoot, but it was treat to be around guys like Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
MNOD: Your most recent book, “Familyhood,” is the third you’ve written. Do you find it easier to write in the literary format or for the stage?
Reiser: When I’m writing for a book, it’s a much more reflective process. I have certain things that may not translate well to the stage, but, when they’re on the page, people can really get into them. My first two books were aiming to be funnier, but the third was more about deep exploration. Things about being a parent and growing older that I thought would be perfect for a book.
MNOD: Do you ever hear from fans who say how much they relate to your material?
Reiser: That’s the nicest part, because there’s always a line or a joke that people immediately relate to. It’s touching to see their faces. They’re laughing, because they relate to it and have experienced something similar in their own lives.
MNOD: I know you’re also an accomplished musician. Where did your passion for the piano originate from?
Reiser: We had a piano when I was growing up, so I was just drawn to it. The theme to “Mad About You” was actually the first thing I ever wrote for public consumption. I met this wonderful singer named Julia Fordham and we collaborated on an album that I’m really proud of. It has nothing to do with my other work, it was just something different to get involved in.