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After establishing himself as a sharp-witted presence on the New York comedy scene, Paul Reiser dove headlong into features, playing fast-talking comic relief in films like "Diner" (1982), "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984) and "Aliens" (1987). He earned his first television series with the hit "My Two Dads" (NBC, 1987-1990), but hit his stride as a performer, writer and producer with "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99). The witty comedy teamed Reiser with Helen Hunt as married New Yorkers who navigated the joys and perils of adulthood while contending with a never-ending parade of eccentric friends and relatives. The show brought Reiser considerable fame and award nominations, but in the years following its departure, he remained relatively inactive, save for writing and starring in "The Thing About My Folks" (2005), a mild family comedy-drama. Although a low-key return to television with the gently meta "The Paul Reiser Show" (NBC, 2011) was quickly canceled, he maintained a steady presence in character roles in indie films while co-starring in TV series including "Married" (FX 2014-15), '80s throwback comedy "Red Oaks" (Amazon 2015-17), and science fiction juggernaut "Stranger Things" (Netflix 2016- ).
Born March 30, 1957 in the Stuyvesant Town area of New York City, Paul Reiser was the son of wholesale health food salesman Sam Reiser and his wife, Helen. As a teenager, he gravitated towards music, and fronted a rock band called the Upper Deck. He studied piano and composition as a student at Binghamton University while also participating in campus theater productions. However, Reiser had prepared himself to join his father in the wholesale business until he began frequenting comedy clubs. From that point on, he abandoned both the business and music pursuits, diving headlong into stand-up comedy.
After making a name for himself on the New York comedy scene, he began branching out into acting for film and television. His first project was also his big break: he played Modell, the sarcastic comic relief in Barry Levinson's "Diner" (1982) opposite fellow up-and-comers Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Steve Guttenberg and Mickey Rourke. The Oscar-nominated comedy/drama gave a considerable boost to Reiser's profile in Hollywood, and he was soon cast in a string of Modell-esque roles, playing edgy, caffeinated young men whose way with a quip frequently covered their nervous natures. He was a hapless Detroit police detective in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984), which he reprised with greater screen time in "Beverly Hills Cop II" (1987), and played a duplicitous corporate lackey in James Cameron's "Aliens" (1987). That same year, he scored his first series success with "My Two Dads" (NBC, 1987-1990), a modest sitcom about two men - an uptight businessman (Reiser) and a laid-back artist (Greg Evigan) - who are awarded joint custody of a young girl (Staci Keanan) whose mother had dated both of them. A family favorite, the show netted a People's Choice Award for Favorite new TV Comedy Program before its demise in 1990.
The following year, Reiser returned to features with "The Marrying Man" (1991), a vehicle for then-married couple Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, with Reiser playing a character loosely based on vaudeville comic and TV star Phil Silvers. Seeking to gain some control of his career, Reiser conceived "Mad About You," a sitcom based in part on his own life, about two thirty-something professionals who contend with life and marriage in his native New York. Reiser played Paul Buchman, a struggling documentary filmmaker, while Helen Hunt portrayed his wife Jamie, a public relations specialist. After a slow start in its first season, "Mad About You" soon vaulted to the Top 40 for the majority of its network run, buoyed in part by the clever repartee between Reiser and Hunt and by its ever-rotating cast of guest stars as the Buchman's extended family, including Mel Brooks, who won three Emmys as Paul's Uncle Phil, and a host of Reiser's comedy friends and heroes, including Jerry Seinfeld, Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner and Eugene Levy. The show was showered with awards and nominations, including 10 Emmy nominations for Reiser for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and as producer of the series. Reiser even co-wrote the show's theme song with David Kitay, which earned three BMI Film and Television Awards. In its final season, he and Hunt were each paid $1 million per episode.
While working on "Mad About You," Reiser kept active with other projects, most notably the broad family comedy "Bye Bye Love" (1995), with Reiser, Matthew Modine and Randy Quaid as a trio of recent divorcees dealing with new romances. When the series ended, there were also supporting roles in "One Night at McCool's" (2001) and an impressive dramatic turn as an American doctor diagnosed with leukemia who seeks out his English birth mother (Julie Walters) in the ITV-produced TV movie, "Strange Relations" (Showtime, 2001). His most significant work during this period came in the form of two humorous books, Couplehood (1995) and Babyhood (1997), which detailed his observations about relationships and parenting.
In 2005, Reiser made his feature writing and producing debut with "The Thing About My Folks," a bittersweet comedy-drama about a man (Reiser) and his father (Peter Falk) who discover truths about their lives while on an extended road trip-cum-escape after the older man is abandoned by his wife (Olympia Dukakis). In subsequent years, Reiser kept a low profile, appearing infrequently in films and television; most notably as himself in Judd Apatow's "Funny People" (2009). He finally returned to television in 2011 with "The Paul Reiser Show" (NBC, 2011), a half-hour comedy in which he played a fictionalized version of himself, a former TV star who has no financial need to ever work again but has grown antsy in semi-retirement. The series premiered to disappointing reviews and was pulled after seven episodes. His supporting role in Steven Soderbergh's offbeat Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra" (2013) was better received, as was his supporting role on cable comedy "Married" (FX 2014-15). During this period, Reiser also worked frequently with writer/director Jeff Baena, appearing in supporting roles in the zombie romance "Life After Beth" (2014), dark comedy "Joshy" (2016) and "The Little Hours" (2017), in which he had a cameo as the businessman father of an unhappy nun (Alison Brie) in a 14th century Italian convent. Reiser also appeared in jazz education drama "Whiplash" (2014) and sports drama "Concussion" (2015), as well as action drama "War On Everyone" (2016), indie romance "The Book of Love" (2016) and supernatural horror "The Darkness" (2016). After co-starring in '80s-set comedy "Red Oaks" (Amazon 2015-17), Reiser joined the cast of another '80s-set series, "Stranger Things" (Netflix 2016- ) for its second season.
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Began performing stand up comedy during his summers in New York at age 20.
Made his feature acting debut in "Diner"
Appeared in his TV debut in the pilot for a series based on "Diner," in which he reprised his role from the film
Made his TV-movie debut with "Sunset Limousine"
Played a smooth talking corporate shill in the legendary sci-fi action thriller "Aliens"
Made TV series debut with a starring role on the popular sitcom, "My Two Dads"
Released his first HBO comedy special, "Paul Reiser: Out On a Whim"
Starred, co-created, produced, and wrote the theme song for the hit series "Mad About You"
Starred in dramatic TV-movie "The Tower"
Played a divorced man coping with raising his daughter and dating in the film comedy "Bye, Bye Love"
Had supporting role in the Rob Reiner-directed feature "The Story of Us"
Signed development deal with Columbia TriStar Television
Starred in the Showtime movie "Strange Relations"
Wrote and starred in "The Thing About My Folks," which is based loosely on his life
Voiced Gary on "TripTank"
Joined the cast of the comedy series "Married"
Played Getty on "Red Oaks"
Cast as Ilario in "The Little Hours"
Joined the cast of "Stranger Things" as Dr. Owens