So a Jew and a Catholic go into a sushi restaurant . . . It sounds like the setup for a joke, but the first date for Arnie Reisman and Paula Lyons was not much fun. On the second date, though, he made her laugh. Now his jokes and her laugh have been features on the NPR program Says You for 12 years. They own a home in Menemsha.

Interviews by Mike Seccombe

Arnie: We met in at Channel Five in Boston. Paula started in there in 1978 and I got there in ’79. She was a consumer reporter — and remained one for 25 years — until 2003.

I went there to work on a sitcom that was — and you can quote me on this — ripped off to become Cheers.

Anyway, we had mutual friends who knew us who would never have put us together. I’m Jewish, she’s Irish. She tended to date guys who were banking-lawyering-doctoring-business related. I am not that at all.

So we met despite our friends, at an engagement party. I asked her out.

I took her to a place that just about killed the relationship. A Japanese restaurant in Back Bay, one of these places that was totally into Japanese custom. You had to take your shoes off and fold your legs under the table. I watched her do this and she was as comfortable as an erector set, disassembling before my eyes. She’d never had Japanese food before. It didn’t go well. I was a nervous wreck.

Our next date was a shopping expedition to buy her some home appliances. There was less at stake I guess, and we hit it off.

We got married in January ’82. We’ve never really fought about anything, ever. I think the secret is acceptance. Neither tried to change the other.

It’s a second marriage for me and a first for her. I’d already had the rebound relationship in between. That’s the one where you’re supposed to use somebody else, screw up again and say, “Oh yeah, now I see what I was doing wrong.”

We defer to what we think are each other’s strengths.

She’s much more analytical than I am. She gives much more thought to what’s going on around her. She’s a great interviewer. Her great quality on television is that she exuded trust. This woman is totally honorable, totally honest. It’s in her face, her presence, her words, her voice.

And the camera really loved her.

Me, I’m trying to find the shortest distance between two points, wanting to get something done immediately. And I don’t believe the world will change as a result of anything we’re doing. Nor will the house crumble.

Says You started because Richard Sher, the host, producer, chief cook and bottle washer of the program created a pilot, with his six friends — two teams of three — and an audience of friends, to whom he served all kinds of liquor to get them into a laughing mood.

He took it to WGBH radio and they said ‘Great, wonderful, how quick can we get this on the air?’ We went on air March ’96.

Richard has figured us out enough to know there are fields of expertise we each own. With Paula it’s Broadway, show tunes, anything musical. She’s very musical; she used to be a singer.

My mother, when I was about seven, decided she should capitalize on the fact that I tended to read the encyclopedia, mainly because it was the only book she brought home. These were the ones you could buy for 99 cents in the supermarket. And she put me on a little radio show then on in Chicago called Quiz Kids and I was on it long enough to throw up and get off the air. My head’s full of all sorts of junk.

Paula’s the one who always had the steady source of income — she’s now doing executive coaching — where I have always just gone wherever my curiosity takes me. I do documentary work, and every so often I need a voice.

This film that I just showed here at the Hebrew Center, the Powder and the Glory is going to be on PBS in 2009. It’s about Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden and I got Paula to be the voice of Elizabeth Arden.

Probably, if we have any kind of strain, it’s my inability to keep my mouth shut on the radio show. I’m getting better, but if she doesn’t answer fast enough, I will. Which is not good. But I do that to everybody.

Paula will never sail over the edge [on Says You]. She had a Catholic upbringing and education and she minds her Ps and Qs. I can go over the edge; more so in the early days.

It’s been great fun. We do absolutely no preparation for it, just show up, it’s all off the top of the head. If it paid a decent amount I would retire and have it as my only job.

Paula is very involved now in coaching businesspeople and is trying to stay as apolitical as possible; I am now the vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union for Massachusetts. This is the way I get my rants out.

So there’s an oil and water possibility. But I can’t believe anyone is going to not hire her just because of her husband.

The closest we come to tension is about this house. In the dead of winter we go, “Why do we have a house out in Mememsha?” The longer we’ve been coming here, the more friends we’ve gained who live here all year-round, most of them in Vineyard Haven. I think, “I could roll off the boat and be at my house, instead of having to drive another 25 minutes.”

Paula: I met Arnie in 1980. We had mutual friends, who would never, ever have put us together. Then we wound up at the same party — the engagement party of one of those friends who would never have us out together. He asked me out right after.

And I was very impressed because he said “I am going to London where the British American Rep is putting on one of my plays . . . Of course after two or three dates, the British American Rep went bankrupt and he — he never got to go.

It was a disastrous first date, because he was very nervous. And he’d even been married before. I hadn’t. What did he have to be nervous about?

He took me to a Japanese restaurant and they gave us one of those traditional low tables and you folded up your legs like a giant erector set and he looked so uncomfortable that I decided I’d made a horrible mistake.

At work the next day he said, “Let’s try this again.” I had to go to buy some big appliances and I thought a pair of strong arms would be helpful. He was himself that night and very funny. He cracked me up and I gave it another try.

He’s so smart, so quick, so funny. No matter how serious the circumstance, he always makes me laugh. He’s also very thoughtful. I have not cooked since we got married. Which means he does all the supermarket shopping. He thinks of what I need before I need it.

I was 35 when we met, 36 when we married. He was 38 and 39. We were not starry-eyed young things. We’d been around the block a few times.

He wasn’t my usual type. I had a long history of Irish guys and WASPs. He’s an only child. I’ve got eight siblings. He once said, “Bad enough I have to do Christmas, but in a bus station?”

He’s got a photographic memory. I just loathe that about him, but I do park all my phone numbers with him. He’s so organized, God bless him. There has to be one in every family, right?

I worked in politics before I was a reporter. I’d worked for the mayor of Boston as a press secretary and had some other jobs in the administration. And I’d been a teacher [in Argentina for two years].

Being a consumer reporter combined all of that. Part teacher, part public servant, part defender of the little guy.

When we met he was head writer on the only locally-produced sitcom in the nation at the time, called Park Street Under, and it became the basis for Cheers.

I’ve always had the regular income while he’s moved from project to project. I thought there was a very good chance he’d hit upon something that would make him very successful, but if not, c’est la vie.

Arnie’s art, I’m commerce.

I can get quite tense and anxious about things. He’s just, “What’s the problem?”

[On Says You] there are times, I will say, when I’m thinking and getting close to the answer and he blurts it out. But at least our team’s going to get it right then.

I’m good for show tunes and arcane little pieces of knowledge that come from all the jobs that I’ve had.

Richard always says I love your laugh, it fills the track.

So I play Jane Meadows to Steve Allen. They used to be on a quiz show years ago and her role was to go [she affects a fruity laugh], “Oh Steve!”

That’s my role; I laugh all the time . . .

We have the best time doing the show because you don’t have to prepare, because you can’t. This is Arnie’s dream job, if only it paid.

It rounds out my life, because my other work is so serious. It can be very high stakes and intense.

I do some voiceovers for Arnie. And he appeared in our [executive coaching] company brochure, dressed up in a business suit.

I know it sounds Pollyanna-ish, but we love working together.

Two years after we got married, the summer of ’83, he said he wanted to rent a place on the Vineyard. I had never been here. But he said “Let’s just rent a house for July and if you hate it, we never have to go back again.

We found a house on the Middle Road, and it was magical.