Paul Reiser Interview: ‘There’s Johnny’ and ‘Stranger Things’
“I was a big fan of Johnny and of comedy. He became a mecca for comics, and in 1972 the show moved from New York to Burbank. Part of what made that a special time is that it was the boom of comedy. A lot of young comics, not yet established, got their first shot with Johnny,” reveals Paul Reiser about his program “There’s Johnny,” now streaming on Hulu. In our recent webcam interview (watch the exclusive video above), he discusses his deep admiration for Johnny Carson, who hosted “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” from 1962 to 1992 on NBC.
“There’s Johnny” is a comedy series set in 1972 which follows a young 19-year-old (Ian Nelson) from Nebraska (Carson’s home state) who writes a letter to the show, visits the studio, and accidentally gets a job as a gofer for the late night institution. The new program, which Reiser calls a “labor of love,” features clips from the original talk show mixed in with the behind-the-scenes plots of the writers, assistants, and executive producer Fred de Cordova (played by Tony Danza).
During this past year, Reiser also became a regular cast member on the second season of “Stranger Things,” which debuted October 27 on Netflix. He plays Dr. Sam Owens on the spooky Emmy-winning series, a character that replaced the evil government Dr. Martin Brenner from the first season (Matthew Modine). When he took the role he had no idea if his character would be good, bad, or somewhere in between. He says, “When I met with them, they had not written any of the scripts. They were just working it out. I think part of their design was to keep you guessing, and it kept me guessing until I got the last script.”
Reiser has been working on television for over 30 years, most famously by co-creating “Mad About You,” which aired from 1992 to 1999 on NBC. Leading lady Helen Hunt won four Emmy Awards for playing his wife, and Reiser received 10 nominations — four for producing the Best Comedy Series nominee and six for Best Comedy Actor. He also had four Golden Globe bids for acting and three more for producing (with a win in 1995). His impressive film career has included “Diner,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Aliens,” “The Thing About My Folks,” “Whiplash,” and “Concussion.”