Still mad about stand-up — Paul Reiser chats with CL before St. Pete Palladium show Saturday

Comedy's expert on Couplehood returns to his first love.

The Mahaffey Presents Paul Reiser
Saturday, Feb. 21, at 8 p.m.  Palladium Theatre, 253 Fifth Ave., St. Petersburg.
$29-$49, available at

Paul Reiser was one of the generation of ‘80s and ‘90s stand-up comics who blossomed into TV stars. He has also made waves as an actor in classic films from Diner to Aliens, and most recently appeared in the Oscar-nominated Whiplash. All that success often kept him away from stand-up, his first love, for nearly 20 years. He got back behind the mic three years ago, and now his national comeback tour is bringing him to the Palladium in St. Pete this Saturday. 

From Mad About You to bestselling books like Couplehood, Reiser's career has been an extended exploration of relationships, and he’s returning to the theme with this tour. “It wasn't a calculated thing,” he told me of his lifelong fixation. “That’s just where my brain goes. ... When you strip everything else in the world down to its bare essence, you ultimately get two people and what goes on between them.”

A career thinking and talking about love hasn't taken the challenge out of his own relationship, even though he’s been married since 1988. “I don't think anyone knows what they're doing," he says. "You think you reach a certain level where there’s never going to be a conflict. But that just never happens.”

He talks about stand-up in the same terms, as an unending quest. “It’s so intriguing to me, how much you can change every night, and how you never really master it. You're always moving towards a horizon that’s moving itself, and you can't quite get there.”

Part of the constantly evolving nature of stand-up is how it changes as a comic moves through life. Reiser on stage now is a bit slower than he was as a nebbishy neurotic tossing flip one-liners in the eighties. But it’s a thoughtful slowness that meshes with the complications of his grown-up material. “You're in your 50s, you’re not talking about your girlfriend moving in. It’s a different world.

“You've got more opinions, you’re more formed — [though] I can't say they're the right opinions,” he adds with a  laugh.

Reiser is still acting frequently, slated to appear in films like this year’s Miranda Drive and 2016’s Concussion with Will Smith and Alec Baldwin. But he’s audibly excited to have finally made it back to stand-up. “Stand-up has always been my first calling. ... There are days when you have a great day on the set, you have a great scene. But I have to say I enjoy it more than acting.”

Reiser is looking forward to coming to Florida, which he describes as a kind of home away from home. “There’s so many transplanted New Yorkers and Easterners. When you play the home court, it’s 15 or 20 percent funnier.”

But his new material, just like everything he’s done, is hitting with audiences across the country.

“Someone wiser than me once said, the things that are most personal, are most universal as well. Because everybody goes through those things.”

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