Paul Reiser: Comedian makes a rare Buffalo stop

By Michelle Kearns

Published on

A famous actor who is a comedian at heart brings warmth and his storytelling to Buffalo

As Paul Reiser prepares for his St. Patrick’s Day show in Buffalo, the actor and comedian best known for his starring roles in “Mad About You” and “Stranger Things,” is looking forward to taking the stage at Buffalo State University Performing Arts Center and doing stand-up comedy that he enjoys more than being in the TV shows and movies he’s so famous for.

“I have more fun doing this than any of the other things, to be honest. It’s always interesting. It’s always a challenge. It’s always a moving goal post. You never quite feel like, ‘I got it.’ There’s no perfect show. There’s always something that you go, ‘OK. I just learned something tonight.’ And that’s kind of cool and exciting,” said Reiser in a recent phone interview. “I think of myself as a comic. The minute a TV show is finished, I go, ‘All right. Now I can go back and do some standup.’”

Reiser, who is an alumnus of SUNY Binghamton University, joked that he has taken a considered approach to his stop in Buffalo, where tickets are $38 and $48 for his performance at 8 p.m. Friday, March 17 at the Buffalo State Performing Arts Center’s Rockwell Hall stage at 1300 Elmwood Ave.

“I strategically waited until at least March to give you a chance to thaw,” Reiser said. He guessed that he has been to Buffalo once before. “It’s been a while since I’ve been there. So, I’m considering it my pilgrimage.”

While he has not yet been to the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, he was curious about the exhibits and archives of the work by comedians like George Carlin and Johnny Carson. “It is fascinating to see how things that we enjoy as finished products got there because they don’t just fall out of the sky,” he said. When asked if there’s anything he’d like to taste or experience while here, he had a question: “Are Buffalo wings actually a Buffalo thing?” he said. After an assurance that, yes, Buffalo wings were invented here, he offered his kudos: “America thanks you.”

Reiser’s appearance is part of a concerted effort by Buffalo State University to invite comedians more regularly and build on the popularity and strong turnout for their performances. At college campuses, where he often performs, Reiser usually sees a diverse mix of ages in the audience.

As he scans their faces, he tries to figure out which one of his TV shows they like best. “I can kind of gauge my own little survey as people are walking in. I can say, ‘OK, I think that couple is a “Mad About You” fan and that older couple is a “Kominsky Method” fan, and those younger people are “Stranger Things,”’” he said.

The earlier days of Paul Reiser’s standup, which he is looking forward to getting back to.

He elaborated on his preference for standup comedy explaining that it is so much simpler and faster than television and movies, which can take months or years before they make it to screens.

“It’s just uncomplicated,” Reiser said. “You come to the theater. I come to the theater. I’m going to talk to you and you’re going to laugh. We’re going to have a great time and we’ll all go home. There’s no further commitment. There’s no middleman. I don’t have to wait. In comedy, you know right away if you do it well. And I love that immediacy.”

Reiser calls his style of comedy, about the absurdities of life, the ‘Ooh yeah’ variety. “George Carlin used to call it, ‘Ooh, yeah’ comedy. You say something and the audience just goes, ‘Ooh, yeah, that’s so true,’” said Reiser.

“People are basically the same whether you’re in Seattle or Buffalo or Florida or San Diego and in the middle,” he said. “Everybody’s got parents and kids and relationships and everybody’s getting older and everybody’s looking at the same world and trying to make sense of it. We’re all going through similar things. To me, that’s why people laugh.”

Quotes from this interview have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Michelle Kearns headshot

Michelle Kearns

As a former Buffalo News Reporter, teacher & member of a university communications team, I love sharing stories about Buffalo & the unexpected people, places & happenings here. It is a thrill to make new discoveries, and take in the city - & the Cheerios air! - as VBN's new communications manager.