Paul Reiser is one guy who doesn’t forget where he came from. As huge as he is, he’s still grateful for the people who helped him get there, so when he came to New York to promote his new TV show on NBC airing tonight at 8:30 P.M. with Paul playing himself, he came to visit Richie Tienken at The Comic Strip, the club where he started out so many years ago.
After taping Jimmy Fallon earlier, he came to the club, and did a spot at the 8:30 show, left and came back and did the 10:30 show and then came back the next night to do the 10:30 show, and even stayed to do the late show at 12:30, plus he stayed and mingled and took photos with anyone in the audience that wanted to meet him. That’s the essence of a nice guy who cares about the audience.
Paul is one of the many Comic Strip alumni, who went on to become huge stars, and that I interviewed so far for the book Richie and I are doing on the history of the club, which opened on June 1, 1976. This June will be 35 years.
On June 17th Jerry Seinfeld walked in to audition and about a year later, Paul Reiser came on the scene, with other comics like Carol Liefer, Mark Schiff, Rich Hall, Larry Miller and a lesser-known comic named Michael Cain.( I think that’s how he spelled Cain. No one seems to know for sure, and unfortunately he’s long gone so no one can ask him!)
Paul told me great stories during the interview I did with him. One of them was how he got the movie “Diner” in April of 1982, a film role that really put him on the map! ( What kind of an expression is that? Who even came up with that? A cartographer back in Colonial days??? LOL )
It was February of 1981, and Paul had accompanied this friend comic Michael Cain, who was also a stand-up comic and a close friend, to an audition for this new Barry Levenson movie “Diner.” Paul was really on his way to go shopping at Macy’s for underwear and socks,because he had an upcoming gig at The Comic Strip in Ft. Lauderdale and rather than do laundry, he thought he’d just buy more underwear and socks.
That was his mission. So he accompanies Cain, who didn’t wind up getting the gig, but when the casting director saw Paul, she asked him for his headshot. He said he didn’t have one as he was only there with his friend and really just wanted underwear and socks.
She convinced him to come back the next day with his headshot, which he did and then he left for Ft. Lauderdale. He was down there two days when he got the call that he had gotten “Diner.”
His character’s name was Modell. There was no part actually written for Modell as Paul found out when they sent him the contract and the script. He gave the contract to Bob Wachs another founder of The Strip who happened to be a lawyer, and he gave the script to Richie Tienken to look at. Richie came back to Paul and said, ” Your character is Modell right?” Paul said ” Yes” to which Richie replied, ” Well, I don’t know how to break this to you buddy, but you ain’t in the script. Not even once.”
Tienken continued, ” They told you you gotta flesh out your part? Well, I sure hope you do cause you ain’t got any lines! “
Barry expected Paul to create his role on camera which he did. He improvised the whole thing and as he did he got more and more lines. Michael Cain became one of the inner circle of comics who met every New year’s Day for brunch, along with Paul, Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Schiff, and Larry Miller. After Michael passed away they kept doing it as a tradition, which they do to this day. They have brunch and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Well a lot has happened since then, and tonight is the debut of Paul’s new show on NBC called appropriately enough, The Paul Reiser Show. Watch this little video I shot with Paul to promote his show. We all wish him well and hope it will be a big hit. How can it not be? Paul Reiser is starring in it!