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February 7, 2013
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Reiser, Hytner bring on the laughs Saturday

Paul Reiser as a weekend warrior of the comedy circuit?

After 20 years, the comedian, actor, author and musician has returned to stand-up comedy and will bring his act to Grass Valley Saturday with comedian and Grass Valley resident Steve Hytner.

The Los Angeles-based Reiser said he decided to return to his roots in stand-up this past year and told his agent to “throw the net out … whoever wants me, I’ll go.”

Reiser performs mainly on weekends, in Cleveland, Palm Desert and soon at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.

“I’m having fun,” Reiser said of the stand-up gigs. “It’s exactly as hard and rewarding as it used to be.”

A stand-up act at a charity event reminded Reiser how gratifying it feels to be on stage with an audience, he said.

“It’s just you and nice people gathered in one room. … It’s as low-tech as you can get,” Reiser said, adding that for him, it’s “embarrassingly fun.” Although Reiser got his start doing stand-up, he is widely known for his starring role alongside Helen Hunt on the long-running NBC series “Mad About You,” which he also co-created and co-produced. He also wrote the sitcom’s theme song, “The Final Frontier.”

Besides his acting and his comedy Reiser is an accomplished musician. His most recent music project, “Unusual Suspects,” is an album of original songs he wrote with celebrated British singer/songwriter Julia Fordham. Reiser arranged and played piano for the album.

Reiser’s written works include “Familyhood,” “Babyhood” and, his first book, “Couplehood,” which sold more than 2 million copies and reached the No. 1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list.

The TV shows and books grew out of his stand-up comedy, Reiser said. Now it is coming full circle with a stand-up act that showcases fresh new material.

“Now I have a relationship with the audience. If you come to see me, you get the chance to see who I really am,” he added.

His material still focuses on family and relationships, but it is a new act because, as Reiser points out, it’s a continuing conversation. It changes because life changes. Reiser simultaneously describes his own marriage of nearly 25 years as “terrifically happily married” and still hard work.

“For me, I find that honesty is the best way to go. Most of my material is autobiographical with slight comic exaggerations,” he said. “When you talk about something that is real and true to you it will invariably be true and ring a bell for someone else.”

Big laughs in small town

Unlike Reiser, Steve Hytner has spent his career enmeshed in the stand-up realm. But like his friend and fellow comedian, Hytner, too, is more famously known for his role on a TV sitcom, playing Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy competition Kenny Bania on the immensely popular “Seinfeld.”

“I’ve been doing this 30 years, but it’s still the 800-pound gorilla,” Hytner said of Bania, pointing out that at this very moment, an episode of “Seinfeld” is on TV.

Hytner has also starred as a series regular on seven TV shows and has been a guest repeatedly on more than 50 others. He has appeared in 25 films and is considered one of America’s most recognized character actors. A sampling of his work includes: “Hung”, “Mike and Molly”, “Two and a Half Men,” “Curb your Enthusiasm,” “CSI,” “CSI New York,” “Boston Legal,” “Friends,” “Roswell,” and “King of Queens.”

While Hytner still works on TV shows — he currently has a recurring role as a principal on the ABC comedy “Family Tools” — his focus now is on his son, Jack. Hytner moved to Grass Valley to spend more time with his young son after weekend visits just weren’t enough, he said.

“I like Grass Valley as a place for Jack to grow up,” Hytner said of life in the Sierra foothills.

“So far, so good. It’s been a year and a half and I’m getting away with it,” he said of the transition from Southern California.

Hytner has adapted his career to keep him closer to home. That includes on-camera work, stand-up and voice overs.

“I’m really kind of focusing on stuff that allows me to be around Jack,” Hytner said. “And you know, he’s worth it.”

Saturday will be the first time Hytner has performed in his newly adopted hometown. He and Reiser became friends when they worked together on “The Marrying Man” movie. When he learned Reiser was performing at The Center for the Arts, he took the opportunity to once again join his friend. Hytner will perform for 20-30 minutes before handing the mic off to Reiser.

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s performance. It is $40 for members and $45 for non-members. The performance is part of The Center for the Arts Comedy Series presented in cooperation with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital’s “Laughter is the Best Medicine” program.

For information, go to http://thecenterforthearts.org.

Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at bbentley@theunion.com.


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The Union Updated Feb 7, 2013 08:52AM Published Feb 7, 2013 08:52AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.