It’s a sold-out house at the Grunin Center for the Arts this Saturday, October 8, 2022 evening. Located on the wooded campus of Toms River, NJ’s Ocean County College, audience members inside the venue’s packed auditorium are looking forward to an evening of stand-up comedy starring actor, writer, and comedian Paul Reiser.
Born and raised in New York City, Reiser was drawn to Greenwich Village clubs which featured comedians like George Carlin, David Steinberg, and Robert Klein. He attended SUNY Binghamton where he majored in music and participated in drama classes. While still in college, Reiser was active in student theater productions as part of an on-campus community theater organization. He later began performing as a comedian at New York’s Improv and Comic Strip comedy clubs during his summer vacations from school.
In 1982, Reiser had a breakout movie role when he appeared in Barry Levinson’s Diner, and he followed up with films including Beverly Hills Cop, Beverly Hills Cop II, and Beverly Hills Cop: Axel Foley, in addition to James Cameron’s Aliens, and the romantic comedy, Bye Bye Love. His first original screenplay became The Thing About My Folks, a motion picture in which he starred with Peter Falk, Olympia Dukakis, and Elizabeth Perkins.
In the late 1980s, Reiser appeared on TV in My Two Dads, and from 1992–99 starred in Mad About You in a role which garnered him Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. In 2018, he reprised that role in a revival of Mad About You for Spectrum Originals. Reiser recently appeared in Amazon Prime’s Red Oaks and The Kominsky Method, and can currently be seen in The Boys on Amazon Prime, Reboot on Hulu, and Stranger Things on Netflix.
Voted one of Comedy Central’s “Top 100 Comedians of All Time,” Reiser is also the author of the NY Times bestseller, Couplehood, in addition to two follow-up books, Babyhood and Familyhood.
Inside the Grunin Center auditorium, the lights dim and opening act Vance Gilbert takes the stage. Looking personable in his red glasses, hat, shirt, and shoes, Gilbert immediately grabs the attention of the local crowd by asking, “So where’s the apostrophe in ‘Toms River’?”
The comedy singer/songwriter opens his set with an original tune, “Pie and Whiskey,” crooning, “You can live on pie and whiskey/But you surely won’t live too long.”
The crowd chuckles, and Gilbert concludes the number by humming a single note on the coda which is so incredibly long it prompts audience members to burst into applause.
Gilbert humorously heckles a latecomer to the theater, asking, “Where were you?” before dedicating his next song to her. On this humorous ditty, “Trust,” Gilbert croons, “Don’t trust your kitty/If he smiles and the canary is quiet,” eliciting giggles from the crowd.
Additional highlights of Gilbert’s set include his Halloween song, “Zombie Pattycake,” which wins the audience over with its clever lyrics, in addition to his final number, “God Bless Everyone,” where Gilbert sings, “Oh, bless all the good/That makes it’s way back to me,” with power and style before taking a gracious bow in front of the applauding crowd.
Following a brief changeover where audience members remain in their seats as the stage is reset, Paul Reiser enters to avid cheers and applause. He jokingly responds, “That is wildly optimistic on your part,” before thanking audience members for their warm acknowledgement.
Reiser takes a moment to thank opening act Vance Gilbert prior to launching into a bit about how it is “much easier to not go to a show than to go to a show.” Here, Reiser explains that there was no intermission between Gilbert and himself because, as he deadpans, “I know audiences like to get home at a reasonable hour.”
Despite going on to note, “Nothing I say tonight will have any redeeming value,” Reiser nonetheless captures the audience’s attention and keeps it for his entire set. Relatable topics that have the audience chuckling — and, at times, belly laughing — include one’s favorite (or least favorite) child, downsizing, and the aging process where “everyday, you have less future.”
Other topics include the multitude of eye glasses that come with aging, memory loss, sleep habits, and worry, but Reiser also talks about the positive aspects of getting older — such as having more confidence, getting better at saying “no,” and eliminating all the things you don’t want to do in life — in addition to riffing on such technology issues as “the cloud,” so-called “I’m not a Robot” computer tests, and DNA sampling.
Local residents laugh out loud when Reiser complains about the difficulty of finding the Grunin Center because, as he jokes, “They put it in the woods where the deer are the only ones who can give directions where it is.”
A highlight of Reiser’s set is a segment in which he answers audience questions written for him on cards before the show. In response to a question about his Netflix series, Stranger Things, Reiser confesses, “Even I don’t understand what happened in Season Four!” before revealing that the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, couldn’t tell him if his character, Dr. Sam Owens, was supposed to be “good or evil.” Reiser also talks about appearing on TV’s The Boys and the recent Mad About You reboot where he sadly acknowledges, “There won’t be a second season.”
After talking about his TV wife, Helen Hunt, Reiser tells stories about his real-life wife, Paula Ravets, to whom he’s been married for 34 years. Reiser waxes on about the trials and tribulations of being part of a long-married couple, discussing topics including hearing one’s spouse correctly, finding “exciting new things to fight about,” and listening to that voice in your head that reminds you to “never say to your spouse what you are thinking out loud.”
Although, at the outset, he warned the crowd that his commentary tonight would not have any redeeming value, Reiser ends with a touching story about his friend, actor Peter Falk, who loved to eat rice pudding without raisins. Following an incident in a restaurant where, despite claims to the contrary, a waiter served Falk an order of rice pudding which was filled with raisins, Reiser advises the audience, “In the rice pudding of life, enjoy the pudding!” eliciting a standing ovation for this talented comedian and his humorous musings about life.
As audience members make their way out of the Grunin Center auditorium, we chat with several in the crowd who share their opinions of tonight’s performance by Paul Reiser. Remarks Harriet from Lakewood, “He’s the funniest comedian I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen hundreds. I liked that his comedy was clean and you could relate to everything he was saying.” Rosemary from Barnegat agrees, explaining, “To see a comedian be that funny and not be risqué was great, but the best part was his poking fun at real life and our being able to relate to it.”
Alyce from Toms River comments, “Paul Reiser was fantastic — I loved him on Mad About You and on the Mad About You reboot, too — and it was especially funny how he talked about this theater being hidden in the woods.” Glenn from Toms River concurs, noting, “He is very real. Everybody in the audience could relate to him, and it was nice to see somebody younger than me complain about his age!”
Susan from Toms River exclaims, “I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time! He was able to hone in on the subjects that we all experience — plus, it was refreshing to see a comedian who could just talk to the audience without trying to shock them.” Barbara from Farmingdale agrees, explaining, “I thought he was as funny as ever — especially when he was telling stories about life with his actual wife.”
Lastly, we chat with Rema and Hope from Point Pleasant. Whereas Rema remarks, “I absolutely loved Paul Reiser — he was so off the cuff,” Hope calls Reiser’s performance, “Amazing, and so much fun!” Acknowledging, “I really liked the opening act, Vance Gilbert, too,” Hope insists, “I would see Paul Reiser again in a heartbeat. His improvisation and comedic timing are right up top where he can you make you laugh and forget about real life for awhile.”
To learn more about Paul Reiser, please go to paulreiser.com. For info on Vance Gilbert, please click on vancegilbert.com. For information about upcoming shows at the Grunin Center — including Judy Collins on Dec. 11, A Conversation with Mia Hamm on March 8, 2023, and the Red Hot Chili Pipers on March 12, 2023 — please click on grunincenter.org.
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