Paul Reiser has a Pittsburgh story, and it helps conclude the full circle he’s made from standup comedian to sitcom star and movie actor, and back again.
Around 1982, the young Reiser played the now-defunct Funny Bone, on Route 51. He hit it off with a waitress there, a college student from Pleasant Hills named Paula Ravets. The story, he quips today, “always has this sort of tainted patina of show-biz underbelly: a young waitress and a touring comedian.” After graduating, Ravets moved to Los Angeles and in 1988 they married.
Reiser went on to co-create and star in the 1990s sitcom Mad About You. After that hit wrapped, he spent a decade helping to raise the couple’s two sons (Ravets is a clinical psychologist) and doing some writing and the occasional film. But three years ago, the standup bug bit. “Finally I said, ‘I’m just going to do it,’” he says by phone from his home, in Los Angeles. “I went up one day, called up the local comedy club here, and did exactly what I did when I started, when I was 19 — just go down and do five minutes of stuff and see how it goes.”
While he was a little rusty after two decades away from the mic, “it was love at first sight,” he says. “I was like, ‘Oh, boy, I love this, I really love doing it, I love working at it, I love the process of it.’ It still gave me the same charge.”
But the casual, every-other weekend touring schedule that brings Reiser to the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall this Saturday wasn’t the only change; he also began getting more film and TV offers. He’s since played the dad in the Oscar-winning Whiplash and the club president in Amazon comedy series Red Oaks, which was just picked up for a second season. (He also had a small role in Concussion, which was shot here.)
Still, Reiser finds that what comes most naturally is standup. Since that previous Pittsburgh gig, in ’82, he quips, he’s even got a new act — though it still trades in the relationship humor he’s known for. “I always tell my wife and kids, if it weren’t for them, I’d have no act,” he jokes. “So I’m grateful.”