Comedian, actor, television writer, author and musician Paul Reiser currently stars in Stranger Things, as Dr. Sam Owens, a role created by the Duffer Brothers specifically for him, and Chuck Lorre’s The Kominsky Method, for which he received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. Reiser joined Season 3 of the Emmy-nominated The Boys, playing The Legend. He’s also upcoming in the sitcom-themed comedy series Reboot (which premieres September 20), opposite Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville and Judy Greer and recently revived one of his most iconic roles in Mad About You, the long-running hit ’90s comedy Reiser co-created and starred in with Helen Hunt. The veteran actor has garnered praise for notable performances in films such as Diner, Bye Bye Love, Aliens, One Night At McCool’s, the first two Beverly Hills Cop movies and The Thing About My Folks, which Reiser wrote for his co-star Peter Falk. Reiser’s first book, Couplehood, sold over two million copies and was #1 on The New York Times bestsellers list. His subsequent books, Babyhood and Familyhood, were best sellers as well. Over the course of his career, Reiser has received multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, American Comedy Awards and Screen Actors Guild nominations. He and his family reside in Los Angeles. (Image courtesy Paul Reiser.)
Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. Below, comedian, actor and writer Paul Reiser – who is currently having a renaissance with major roles in Stranger Things, The Boys and The Kominsky Method, not to mention the upcoming comedy series Reboot and his new movie The Problem with People – shares some of the things that have enriched his life in recent months. — N.D.
I just spent the summer in Ireland because I was making a movie there called The Problem with People. I wrote the movie because I wanted to go back to Ireland. I had been there years ago and loved it, and something about the place always pulled me back, so much so that I had to write a movie that would allow me to go there again. I think what I love about Ireland is its combination of open-hearted friendliness and inherent melancholy. There’s something in Irish literature and theater and rainy, wintry months that just speaks to me. But not to worry – the film is definitely a comedy.
When we went and shot the film from mid-June to mid-July, we had uncharacteristically stunning weather and everybody said, “We don’t ever get this.” It made me think, “I don’t know what you guys are talking about with the melancholy – it’s beautiful.” Everything I had hoped to find was there, starting with the vibrant colors. Everyone said, “Oh, it’s really green,” and I thought, “I get it. I’ve seen trees.” But no, it’s really green and you can’t quite understand how green until you get there. We were shooting in the middle of the countryside, and every day I would drive to set with my 21-year-old son, who was working on the movie with me, and we would just look out the window and go, “It’s so fricking green – how can it be? Oh my God.” And the next day we would be driving the same road and say, “Just look at that …”
Dublin also felt very similar to New York to me. It’s not all clean and pastoral; Dublin is gritty and there’s a lot of it that’s not gorgeous. When you go by the riverbanks, it’s all graffitied, but the graffiti has pictures of Yeats and James Joyce, so it’s poetic. As Robert Klein used to say, in the Bronx the graffiti just says, “Vinny eats it.” There would also be a rowboat on the river, and there’s no rowboats in New York. So you gotta love a city where in addition to newspapers and Burger King wrappers, rowboats wash up.
Being in Ireland more than exceeded my hopes and expectations. The vision of the country in my head was idealistic, because it was mostly based on books and stories, although the writing I like tends to be dark and sad. When I got there I realized, “Oh, there’s a reason it’s so beloved – it’s just magical.” Granted, I had a uniquely perfect experience, making a movie I wrote that was cast beautifully and everybody was great and we were having fun. I was also with my family, so we were all going through this together. We were there at just the perfect time of year and the movie came out as well as I had hoped, and we’re editing it now. So hopefully it comes out as great as it was in my mind.
Guinness and Pub Culture
While I was in Ireland, I fell in love with Guinness. I had heard that when you go to Ireland, you have to have Guinness, but when I got there I discovered it’s more than a beer. It’s a cultural thing, especially in Dublin, where it’s brewed. People will tell you, “Let’s not go to that pub, because another pub close by serves a better pint.” For Guinness specifically, it’s a question of how long the pipes are, how frequently they are maintained, the temperature it’s kept at, etc. When you taste Guinness, it’s like drinking the best bread, except you don’t get fat or drunk. You’ll have a pint, which is big, and if someone asks you, “Another one?” you say yes. People will tell you that the way to do it is the 3-2-1 system. In the first hour, you have three pints. In the second hour, you have two pints. Finally, in the third hour, you taper down to one pint. Initially, I was confused. I mean, firstly, who has three hours to dedicate to drinking? And you’re going to have six pints? But you can do it!
What I also came to realize is that pub culture is really great. In the beautiful summer weather, you’re sitting outside or standing out in the streets and there’s 50 or even 70 people with their pints. There’s no ball game, there’s no news, there’s no TV, you’re at the pub just to meet with other people. We were staying in a little town and every night we’d go to the same pub, so I’d see and get to meet the same interesting people. I’d never done that before. Previously when I’d gone out for a drink, it was to meet a friend or have a business meeting, so to actually have that simple sense of community was really eye-opening.
I just fell in love with The Bear, which is on FX. I knew nothing about it when I started watching, but I was just captivated. It’s so well done. The basic premise is a young guy who used to work at one of the best restaurants in the world has come back to Chicago to take over his family’s dive of a sandwich place. It’s not about cuisine, it’s just about tradition. I enjoy a good restaurant show and there’s great food porn in The Bear, which is especially difficult because they’re just making a sandwich. The first episode is so hectic and feels really authentic to me. I’ve never worked in a restaurant kitchen, but that world is fascinating to me, and in The Bear it just looks real. The way the camera moves and the frenetic pace, the organization. The first episode is so frantic and kinetic, I didn’t think I could watch seven more like that, but thankfully, the second one calms down. They grab you, and then you’re in.
In one episode, there’s a six-minute scene of someone talking about something really personal in a very intimate environment. There’s also a later episode that’s shorter, but it comes like a rocket. I had to pause at one point to catch my breath. It was so chaotic – but for a very good reason. Thank God it wasn’t longer than 20 minutes, otherwise I would have had a stroke.
The character studies in The Bear are also great. You’re housing all these emotions for this diverse group of people who are all bonding around community and trying to build something new. The acting, the writing, the editing was all brilliant. I never have the patience to binge watch anything, but I just had to binge watch this.