Paul Reiser says he wasn’t the first choice to play himself on NBC’s new comedy “The Paul Reiser Show.”
“Nobody would do it,” he jokes. “Seinfeld wouldn’t do it. Not for this kind of money. Gary Shandling [too]. We had a call into Jack Benny’s office but have not heard back. Ultimately I just did it and it worked out fine. I knew the jokes already.”
It probably helped that the series, which premieres April 14, is loosely based on Reiser’s own life – a la “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Reiser, 54, recently talked to reporters about the show, and revealed that Larry David will appear in the first episode, competing against the “Mad About You” star for a hosting job on a fictional Mark Burnett TV game show.
Watch Reiser Do Reiser:
Did Larry David give you any advice on playing yourself?
No. I called Larry and said “I am sure you are not going to want to do this, but we wrote this part for you…” And he was so gracious. But he said “I don’t like to memorize scripts, so we will improvise it.” And I said, “done!” Then I got very nervous. And I felt when we did that scene like I was getting into the ring with Ali. It was a two-minute scene, but we have forty five minutes of tape because he was so brilliantly funny.
Have you ever been asked to host a game show?
Yes. Periodically things would come up… It is ironic that Mark Burnett is a friend. Our kids became friends, so we became friends. And he periodically calls and says “Would you be interested in doing a thing…” And I say “Mark I love you, but I don’t know if I would be the best at that. There are people who are better at that.” So when we were writing this episode I said “We have to call Mark and have Mark be Mark.”
Since the show is based on some real life moments, how do your wife and kids feel?
On a good day they are very tickled. On a bad day they are going “Why did you tell them that?” But you know, my brilliant partner Jonathan Shapiro is putting his family in there too. One of the brilliant things about having a partner is you get to hide behind the other guy and go “That was really more his wife.” So we feel enough names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Why did you decide to come back to television now?
I felt America needed me [laughs]. I wasn’t at all looking for this. There was no design. If you put a gun to my head four or five years ago I wouldn’t have been able to come up with this show. But because I was really living that life of being a guy who used to be on TV and whose job and daily life is taking the kids to school and putting out the little domestic fire, that suddenly, when I started to look at it, seemed very rich and very universal. So the timing just seemed right.
You didn’t miss not doing it for 11 years?
I was doing other things. I wrote a movie that I wanted to write for years, that I finally got to write with Peter Faulk playing my father. And last year, I got to finally do a music project. I was a music major in college and I always thought “when I take some time off, I would write some music.” Last year I wrote an album of songs with Julia Fordham, who is a great singer. She is an old friend. Suddenly before we knew it we had an album out on iTunes. It is called “Unusual Suspects.” I love it that nobody has ever heard of it! I had also written and produced six pilots that I was not acting in. So I was certainly keeping active and creative, but I wasn’t at all looking to be on TV. I really wasn’t. I wasn’t fighting it either.