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September 21, 2010

5 Questions for Paul Reiser

Posted: 03:22 PM ET

The LKL blog spoke with television star Paul Reiser as he changes pace in his career to focus on music. Pairing with Grammy winning music producer, Julia Fordham, Reiser is making music and sending a message to the families of the US troops.

LKL Blog: You’ve been a musician since before your television fame, but you are most famous for your acting roles. If you had to choose: acting or music & why?

Reiser: There's been something oddly parallel about this music project with Julia Fordham and the new TV show I'm doing. They both started "by accident," ironically in the same month. Over the course of 6 months, all the songs and all the scripts were written at the same time. We recorded the album while we were preparing to shoot the show, and now they're both coming out roughly at the same time. Even though they're totally unrelated, they kind of feed off each other in a strange way.

LKL Blog: The first single on the album “Unusual Suspects” you wrote with Julia Fordham, “UnSung Hero” focuses on families of the troops. How did this collaboration come about & what has the response to “UnSung Hero” been like?

Reiser: I had been a fan of Julia and we met years ago, through a mutual friend. And then sometime last year, we bumped in to each other again and I kind of crazily asked her if she felt like writing together. We gave it a shot – and it worked, and we kept going.

"UnSung Hero" has really taken on a life of its own. It was the last song written, and like all the other songs, I sent Julia some music and waited to see where it took her. As fate would have it, the very next day, she struck up a conversation with a woman whose son is serving in Afghanistan. And her story really impacted Julia, who as a mother of a five year-old, was really struck with what that must mean; to have your child on the other side of the world, directly in harm's way. The song just came to her in one shot. And as soon as we recorded it we felt that we had stumbled onto something special. It just felt so universal.

We were invited to perform the song a few weeks ago at a benefit in Los Angeles for Wounded Warriors Project, and the response was truly humbling. The audience was filled with military families – some with loved ones in combat as we speak, some with soldiers who've returned and are still finding their bearings. They could not have been more passionate about how the song hit them. The thing about Julia's lyrics is that they're so simple and direct. No matter what your politics may be, everyone knows what it feels like to be separated from those you love.

LKL Blog: It’s clear from your work on the piano for the “Mad About You” theme song that you can play & write music. Can you sing?

Reiser: Not at all!  And when I do sing, my children ask me to stop. I leave the singing to Julia – who has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. She has this phenomenal range, and sings with such emotional honesty – she just kills me. The biggest thrill of this process was getting to hear one of my truly favorite singers in the world sing sitting right next to me. It was a genuine treat.

LKL Blog: You have been a student of music for years. Who inspired you to pursue music initially & who continues to influence you today?

Reiser: It was something that i just seemed to take to as a kid. We had a piano in the house growing up, and I just kind of gravitated to it. And my tastes are really all across the board. Growing up, it was the Beatles and Ray Charles and Aretha, then Cream and the Allman Brothers, Elvis Costello, Billy Joel... kind of all over the place. Lyle Lovett to Muse. And I've always loved the really somber classical guys – Rachmaninoff, Sibelius. And any movie with a score by Ennio Morricone.

LKL Blog: You’re currently working on scripts for the “The Paul Reiser Show” on NBC. The series is about a former television star who hasn’t worked on a series in a few years. How autobiographical will the show be?

Reiser: It's pretty darn close, to tell you the truth. I play me – a very happily married man with two great boys and a group of friends I never actually picked. All my friends are either the husbands of my wife's friends, or fathers of my kids' friends. I never particularly chose these guys – yet I got them. (I'm finding out that most guys my age seem to feel the same way.) My "character" is kind of figuring out what he wants to with the rest of his life. When I was approached about creating a new show, I had been happily staying at home for ten years, but was starting to get the nagging sensation that I probably should be getting out of the house once in a while and doing something. So... here I go.

To see the video of "UnSung Heros" go to www.juliafordham.com.

Filed under: 5 Questions


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Jim Carroll   September 21st, 2010 7:07 pm ET

How to Solve the Problem of Unemployment
The waste of human resources on welfare and unemployment must end by creating a reserve-retraining work force, making employment available to everyone. If it makes sense to have a reserve backup force for the military, it also makes sense to have a reserve backup for the civilian work force. No longer would any person be unemployed except on a voluntary basis if a reserve-retraining work force were created so that people could always be working or training.

This group of disenfranchised people, the unemployed, represent a large, diverse segment of our population, including not only single parents and inner-city teenagers, but also people with families who have recently been laid off from good jobs and who realize they must acquire new career skills to support their families.

Almost every town in this country has an employment security office, whose purpose is to match the unemployed with appropriate work. A noble effort, but of little benefit to the millions who lack skills and training that would qualify them for decent paying jobs. But the employment security offices could be the doorway for a reserve-retraining work force. The reserve-retraining work force would do more than maintain meaningless job listings for people who can’t fill them. Through this initiative, the mission of the old employment security agencies would be dramatically changed. They would be transformed into centers for the redirection of lives. People could report to these offices and be assigned to training courses in the public or private educational systems to learn new jobs; or they could serve as a backup work force for people taking vacations, sick leave, or leave to look after family members who are sick. Employers would have a ready source of people for new jobs—or to fill in for one day, one week or one month, while a regular employee is absent.

By giving people on-the-job training, every job could be learned by someone who would be ready when needed in the regular work force. The nation would have a large pool of workers qualified to perform a wide variety of jobs. On call for temporary work assignments or permanent positions, these retrained millions would form a cadre of workers, a reserve to bolster our nation’s labor force—ready and qualified to step in at a moment’s notice. No longer would the operation of small and large employers alike be compromised and threatened by the temporary absence or the permanent loss of any personnel.

Child-care centers could be established in conjunction with the reserve-retraining work force—staffed by competent people needing work—to care for dependents of trainees and others who work through the reserve-retraining work force. These could be operated on a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week basis.

With the establishment of the reserve-retraining work force and child-care centers, no longer would any individual be able to honestly lament that they were powerless to improve, to earn a paycheck, or to become productive. There should be virtually no excuse for unemployment. By supplying trained personnel, no job should remain unfilled. No worker should remain idle. With all able-bodied individuals earning an income, the need for welfare payments would be all but eliminated. Those certified to be truly unemployable because of physical or mental impairment would still receive income from the government. Those able-bodied individuals who refuse to be retrained or to work afterwards would receive no further government assistance. The door of the reserve-retraining work force would always be open, where one can get a day's pay for a day's work.

How would we pay for this new approach to helping those who help themselves? The money now being spent on a host of dead-end welfare programs and unemployment compensation, paid by employers, could be diverted to the start-up and support of this effort. Employers would benefit by having a supply of pretrained workers. Eventually, as increasing numbers of individuals receive training, obtain jobs, leave the welfare rolls, and begin earning salaries and paying taxes, cash flow would reverse. The program would actually save the government more money than it costs. We would see the reserve-retraining work force program starting to pay divid-ends…dividends that not only affect the bottom line but, more importantly, the human spirit as well.

A basic premise: Since earning a living is a person’s first requirement in life, this need must be met before one can realize social and intellectual potential. Any government that does not provide a means by which all of its citizens can partake completely in society has more of which to be ashamed than proud.

Individually, a person, a company, or a corporation cannot provide a job for every citizen at all times; but together they can. The injustice of unemployment cannot wait for better economic times. Passage of time does not solve problems; only people can solve problems. The solution to the unemployment problem is long overdue.

For people who are employed to allow the government not to become the “employer of last resort” without strong protest loses any legitimate claim they may have as part of society. To say that anyone who wants a job can find one without establishing a system to accomplish it is an excuse for the inexcusable.

When America establishes a reserve-retraining work force so all of the people can have a job all of the time, the country will be in a position to eliminate many injustices. Once the injustice of unemployment has been corrected, America can then see clearly how to correct all other existing injustices. Furthermore, America will also be able to correct new injustices as they arise.

For any country, much less America, to have an office of Employment Security where people receive unemployment checks for a few weeks and then continue to be unemployed without a check is a result of the poverty of the minds of government leaders. For 95% of those who are employed to work any overtime without protesting while 5% of their fellow persons go unemployed demonstrates a lack of care.

All the people in society, collectively through their government, have sufficient resources to be the employer of last resort. To place people on welfare or give handouts rather than establish a system that will provide a job for anyone desiring one is unforgivable.

For labor unions to have a system by which people retain their jobs simply due to seniority, while those of shorter employment lose all, is not justice. All employees should share in the percentage of loss. If a set number of employees can work overtime when there is more work, all the employees should work less when there is less work.
How in good conscience can those of us who share the wealth of the richest, most powerful, innovative nation on earth be content while millions of our fellow citizens live in poverty, trapped in the welfare cycle? A reserve-retraining work force is the answer to unemployment and welfare. More than enough money is already being spent on unemployment compensation and welfare benefits to pay for it.


meredithbell   September 22nd, 2010 12:46 pm ET

Just a question in curiosity – To whom and how do you suggest the reserve-retraining workforce begin as an initiative?


KTK   September 22nd, 2010 7:44 pm ET

Jim – what the heck does that have to do with anything?

I have been a fan of Paul Reiser since he was first doing stand-up; it's been a long long wait for his new TV show.

Love love love this song – stunning words and melody brought to life by a gorgeous voice.

– KTK


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