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Interview With Paul Reiser, Who's Mad About 'Familyhood'

The actor and comedian's encore: being a father

Q. Do your kids mind being your material?

A. Oh, who asks them? The truth is my boys trust me enough to write about them, but I run it by them. Also sometimes details are changed or exaggerated for dramatic or comic effect.

Q. So your younger one wasn't embarrassed when you wrote that he is a master liar?

A. He was probably most proud of that — a notable accomplishment! I can't avoid embarrassing my kids. I remember specifically as a kid making a note of how embarrassing parents can be, and how I am never going to do that to my children. What I didn't realize until very recently is that you can't avoid it, and it's not even necessarily what you do — it's that, sometimes, your very existence is embarrassing to them.

Q. So good for the ego.

A. A friend of mine told me this story: His kid, 14 or so, was playing Little League, and he texted his dad, "Dad, I forgot to bring a drink, can you bring me down a Gatorade." So his dad gets in the car with a Gatorade, he walks over to the bench, and the kid goes, "Dad, not here. You're embarrassing me." And he was like, "What? You asked me. How can I physically get it to you, unless I am alive?"

Q. Your older son is a baseball nut, has newly discovered girls, and is in a wheelchair. In the book, you share his amazing outlook on life.

A. He's quite a stunning young man. He sort of underlines this idea that hopefully children get good things from their parents, but their personalities are just theirs. My wife and I will look at both our boys and go, you know, where did he get that? Kids are these people that you get to help, and you have a vote, but in the end they are already on their own way to being whoever they're going to be.

Q. On that note, a couple of summers ago you got your first taste of empty-nest-hood.

A. Yeah, both boys went to camp at the same time. And I've heard the phrase empty nest, but only now do I have a feel of what that might be. It was so quiet. I also realized that so much of what I do as a father is really for me, even if I do it for them.

Q. Such as?

A. I found myself still checking their rooms at night, and it's not just 'cause I was missing them. Checking on them makes me feel like I have some function. Take them out of the equation and what am I doing? Well now I'm just a guy walking around a house. The truth is I just enjoy being patrol man and walking around, going, "Yep, I'm head of the castle!"

Q. Have you and your wife ever playfully considered having another?

A. No, no, and you know why? It doesn't take that much imagination to realize that while we all say, "Ohhhh, I love holding a baby," that's not all you get to do, you have to do everything else, too. When you go to a party with an infant, there is always some mother of a teenager who is so thrilled to hold your baby for you. I used to seek them out, just say, "Here would somebody take this kid? Because I'd like to eat my potato salad in peace."

Next: Reiser on being considered a boomer. >>

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