Paul Reiser says he never really left standup comedy. He just veered off course for 20 years.
"Some comics start off in standup just to get noticed. But I just put it on pause in 1992, kind of got sidetracked," Reiser says. "I just got distracted. I always wanted to get back to it."
The distraction, he says, was "Mad About You," the NBC sitcom in which he starred with Helen Hunt from 1992 to 1999. Reiser, who will perform Saturday, Feb. 21, in Coral Springs, says the show, in which he and Hunt played a married couple in New York, affords him a connection with his audience that he otherwise wouldn't have.
"At this point, the audience knows me, and we have a sort of history, whether we've met or not," says Reiser, 57. "We're all 25 years down the road, and they've moved with me."
Born and educated in New York, Reiser says his comedy plays well in South Florida because the region "is a suburb of New York." Despite his long hiatus from standup, Reiser says his approach to developing a routine remains the same, and is different from the one he took, say, while writing the books "Couplehood," "Babyhood" and "Fatherhood."
That standup process began long before "Mad About You." On his way to being noticed, Reiser starred in Barry Levinson's 1982 movie "Diner," in which his character, a standup comic named Modell, famously angsted over the word "nuance."
"The mechanics of doing standup haven't changed," he says. "You write it down, shape it and say it, then you try it. And then, you try it again. There's no shortcut, no app. It's just old school, very refreshing."
Unlike film or television work, Reiser says, standup offers a "lack of clutter."
"It's the immediacy of telling jokes," he says. "You don't have to pitch it to a studio. You don't have to raise money. You don't have to test it. It just goes straight to the ultimate consumer. It's been surprisingly fun."
While Reiser says he enjoys doing standup, he remains involved in plenty of TV and movie ventures. He has a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated movie "Whiplash," in which he utters the line, "Dying broke and drunk and full of heroin at the age of 34 is not exactly my idea of success."
He also plays a recurring character in the FX comedy "Married" and will appear in "Concussion," a film starring Will Smith and Alec Baldwin to be released this Christmas. Reiser plays a doctor who suppresses the dangers of playing football.
"Whatever I'm doing, it's working," he says. "Nobody has caught on yet."
Paul Reiser will perform 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. Tickets cost $43.46. Call 954-344-5990 or go to CoralSpringsCenterForTheArts.com.