If it feels like ages since you've seen comedian/actor Paul Reiser among the headliners in Atlantic City, you're right.
The former star of the NBC hit sitcom "Mad About You," who performs 9 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, hasn't appeared locally in more than two decades, since hitting it big in prime time.
Nor has Reiser, whose resume also includes big-screen roles in "Diner," "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Aliens," logged much camera time since "Mad About You" ended its seven-year run in 1999.
Instead he has focused on writing scripts and developing shows for other people. Among his few recent screen appearances were a short-lived sitcom for NBC two seasons ago, and a supporting part in the new HBO telefilm, "Behind the Candelabra."
But having tried stand-up again last year, Reiser - the author of the best-sellers "Couplehood" and "Babyhood" - got hooked and is now back on the road.
"What I had forgotten is the immediacy of stand-up," Reiser says. "When you're doing movies and TV, you have to pitch it, cast it and edit it. With comedy, you cut out all those middle steps and you tell it to people and it's immediate. I'm finding that very refreshing."
Reiser talks about getting his stand-up muscles back in shape and how he missed the rapport with a live audience.
Q: Why did you decide to resume doing stand-up?
A: It's been a long time –– I missed doing it. I don't know why it took me so long to get back into it. Once in a while, I would host an event. About a year ago, I did one in (Los Angeles). It was a fun audience, and things went well. I went off stage and said to my wife, "Why don't I do this all the time? I miss this –– getting up there and getting laughs."
Q: What's it been like to develop new material?
A: It's like working out. If you're a ballplayer and you're not playing, you can't just jump right into it and start pitching –– you have to come back slowly. What's really funny is how nothing about doing comedy has changed. For all the technology, it's still such a low-tech art form. You can't take shortcuts, you can't speed it up. You have to write a joke and perform it night after night. You can only make jokes by hand.
Q: But has your creative process changed, having done so much writing since you last tried stand-up?
A: I'm more demanding about myself. I come up with more, but I throw out more. For comedy, the process is that something has to strike you as funny –– you go, "OK, that's a bit." Sometimes you throw it up on stage and find out if it's funny. Then you find out –– that's only funny to me.
Q: Are people expecting to see your "Mad About You" character on stage?
A: "Mad About You" grew out of my stand-up, and the books grew out of my show. There's always been a through-line. Now going on stage, I feel like I'm getting together with an old friend. It's a connection I didn't experience the first time.
Audiences come to see me. They know me. We've grown up together. We're a few years down the track, we're more advanced, we're older, we have families. It's a feeling like when you have friends you haven't seen in a while. You hit the ground running when you have stuff to catch up on.
Q: How does your TV fame factor into the live experience?
A: You chat with people after the show, and they talk about what ("Mad About You") or one of my books meant to them. It's stuff I would never have known. It's kind of nice to get out of the house. Some people are not going to write a letter to tell you these things. It's very heartwarming to keep hearing it time after time.
You put something out there, but you don't know where it's landing. You find out your comedy was something people enjoyed. It's pretty simple –– it's nice to hear.