Considering the success Paul Reiser has had over the years, it's funny to hear him talk about the need to "start from scratch."
After all, he's the Emmy-nominated co-star and co-creator of the long-running, award-winning TV sitcom Mad About You; the New York Times best-selling author of Couplehood, Babyhood and Familyhood; and a featured actor in the '80s movie classics Diner and Beverly Hills Cop.
Reiser, 55, says he felt the need to enthusiastically head back to the drawing board. A year and a half ago, he took to the stage to do his first stand-up comedy set in nearly 20 years.
"I went up there and had a really nice time and I remembered, 'Huh, this is really fun,'" Reiser said.
He joked that his stand-up comedy muscles have atrophied, but for the past four months, he has been fleshing out new material while fine-tuning his stage presence, timing and delivery at smaller comedy clubs. He plays Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this weekend.
"I went out and found out who would hire me, and I'd go," Reiser said, jokingly.
Comedy clubs are where Reiser says he feels the most comfortable doing stand-up. Things are a bit different than they were 20 years ago. The people who show up know his witty take on common topics and his self-effacing humor through his work in TV and film. But Reiser said what tends to work in stand-up has remained consistent in his absence from the microphone.
"The world has changed, but comedy has not," Reiser said. "The craft of doing comedy hasn't changed, and it's refreshing to see that."
Reiser's stand-up sets include many of the same personal topics he's tackled over the years (relationships, family) but with more introspection. The guy who wrote Couplehood as a newlywed has now been married for more than 20 years. The babies he wrote about in Babyhood have grown into teenagers, and Reiser has plenty to say about how age has affected him physically.
While he's on the road performing, Reiser said, he has made a point to do meet-and-greets and sign autographs or copies of his books at every stop.
"That's actually the most gratifying part," he said. "There's a lot to be said about getting out there and meeting people."
As he talked about his upcoming performances in Lexington, Reiser began to second-guess himself. He was worried that his answers were coming off as too serious and that it wasn't exactly the best way to encourage people to come out and see how funny he is. It was, simply, Reiser-esque. Some things really haven't changed.
"Talking about comedy is not the same," he said. "Come on down here and let's do this."
IF YOU GO
When: 7:45 and 9:45 p.m. Jan. 25, 26
Where: Comedy Off Broadway, The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir.
Tickets: $23 on Jan. 25, $27 on Jan. 26. Call (859) 271-5653 or go to Comedyoffbroadway.com.