Brian Regan: Simply Funny

By | November 6, 2006 at 6:24 pm | No comments | Features

Brian Regan: Simply Funny
Stand-up comedian Brian Regan never had a sitcom, doesn’t have a movie credit to his name and you can’t see him on commercials. So how, then, did this Miami native reach the top of the comedy scene without the usual vehicles to high visibility?

By Dylan P. Gadino

Moments after leaving the stage at Tarrytown Music Hall, Brian Regan returns to the microphone, it seems, to simply thank the 843 people in the seats for showing up. That is, until more than a few fans in the New York audience start shouting out names of their favorite Regan bits. The veteran comic can barely respond to their requests; each time he opens his mouth to speak another shout comes darting from the depths of the theater. He’s being pelted with appreciation.

“You know what’s weird,” he informs the audience with a laugh. “Usually at a comedy show, a crowd likes to be surprised a little. But you guys apparently don’t care about that.”

When it’s quiet enough Regan eventually settles on telling a story about playing little league, about how he was terrible but that regardless of his skill level and innings played a refreshing free snow cone was there at the end of every game. It’s a bit that, among many others, has become one of the most embraced by his loyal fanbase.

This is due in large part to its inclusion on the one CD he’s released, the nearly decade-old Brian Regan Live, which, with the amount of times its quoted amongst comedy fans, has become the Caddyshack of contemporary stand-up albums. Though his 2004 DVD, I Walked on the Moon is quickly catching up to his album’s popularity.
Brian Regan

Having started his stand-up career 25 years ago, Regan is not a stranger to this type of adoration. In fact, he’s built such a huge cult following that recently he’s moved his act from the country’s bigger comedy clubs to theaters only. “Theaters are cool because no one would even be there unless they were familiar with you or came with people who were like ‘Man, you gotta check this guy out,’” Regan says from his home 30 minutes from the Las Vegas strip, days after the Tarrytown show.

But that’s not to say he won’t miss some of what the clubs had to offer. “Part of what I liked about them is that there’s a lot more curveballs— blenders in the background, stuff being dropped, birthday parties.”
Case in point: Regan was on stage Jan. 28 at Carolines in New York City (his last weekend playing clubs) when a woman in the front row – more than just a little inebriated – fell asleep in front of him. Halfway through his set, Regan asked as nicely as humanly possible if she was ok, which one could only assume was code for ‘Can you please leave? You’re kinda screwing up my momentum, what with your sleepy-time drool at my feet.’ The crowd roared when she finally left. But you could tell Regan felt bad for her.

“There’s a lot of funny things that happen,” he says. “But while you’re on stage dealing with them, they’re not so funny.”

That night, he didn’t let the drunk-sponsored mishap kill the show. He’s not the type of comic to dwell on the negative. It’s obvious. You can hear it in the way he talks off stage and in his comedy.

“I have my cynical moments,” Regan admits. “I don’t want my comedy to be completely devoid of cynicism. But for the most part, I have a positive outlook on life and I’d like to think people are generally good.”

And when cynicism and sarcasm do creep in to his material, it’s usually unleashed on the smaller things in life. Regan’s act is devoid of the usual stand-up hot topics like religion, politics and sex. Instead, the native Floridian is more likely to expose the idiosyncrasies of mundane human interaction, like when a guy in a convertible obnoxiously raises his pinky off his cell phone as a sign of thanks for letting him merge in front of you. Or when you order a black coffee and the waiter asks, “How would you like that?” Regan’s response: “Can you put it in a cup? Don’t just splash it on my face.”

Regan also lets his cynicism out when he obsesses over language, as in why the “catch of the day” is always fish: “Don’t you have to catch all animals?” He’s also one to point out that the name of the show Dora the Explorer doesn’t rhyme and that “French fries and Pepsi Cola” sounds like “franchise in Pensacola.”

“I think I’m finding from doing this,” says Regan, “there’s a lot of people out there who like to feel pretty good about things and like being able to go to a show and have a good time and not have to walk out saying, ‘That was funny as Hell and he was right, this world does suck. Here we are out in the sucky world. Here we are stuck in traffic. That comedian was right.’”

 

BIG APPLE; BIG TIME

Raised in Miami as one of eight children – brother Dennis is also an accomplished stand-up comedian – Regan, now 48 and married with two children, assumed he’d do as his father did and become an accountant. He almost made it there too. But during his last semester in 1980 at Tiffin, Ohio’s Heidelberg College, Regan dropped out to properly pursue comedy.

It was in these early stages where, in addition to his material, his wholly endearing and now unmistakable stage demeanor began to develop. His crinkled forehead, constantly dancing brows and expressive eyes are almost as much a part of Regan’s act as are the words in his jokes.

After leaving college, he got a job at a Fort Lauderdale comedy club bussing tables, washing dishes and telling jokes on stage where he honed his stand-up chops. This is also when Brian embarked on his first road gigs. In 1986, Regan moved to Manhattan where two years later he won a $10,000 contest that dubbed him “the funniest person in New York.”

Regan suddenly found his schedule filled with appearances at bigger and better clubs and landing gigs on MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour and The Arsenio Hall Show. One of his biggest breaks came in April 1991 when he appeared on Johnny’s Carson’s The Tonight Show.

These semi regular television appearances certainly helped push Regan into people’s view. But it has always been his live show, his stand-up material that earned him such a devout following over the years. You’d be hard-pressed to find one other comedian today that could sell out theaters the way Regan does without a career in television, radio or movies. Besides the occasional spot on late night talk shows, Regan – unlike Ray Romano, Drew Carey, Jerry Seinfeld, George Lopez – is purely a stand-up comedian.

It’s not like Regan never considered these things. “Less and less I want that,” he says about possibly working in sitcoms or movies. “I used to want those things to increase my visibility and to help me with stand-up. In the meantime people just kind of caught on with the comedy. So I like what I’m doing right now. I wouldn’t be opposed to being on a TV show as long as I had complete creative say and I was doing something interesting. I don’t just want to be the goofy dad in a sitcom. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s just not what excites me.”

And though he’s earned the right to coast a bit, Regan is vigilant about challenging himself; he writes constantly and rotates his material around to ensure that each time you see a show, you’re getting well more than a few minutes of new jokes.

“I used to be more loosey goosey with that but as I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve realized that this is a craft and I want to do this as well as I can,” says Regan. “To me, it’s a blast to take the nucleus of the joke and find goofier words to plug in or a more succinct way of getting to it. Like I’ll say to myself, ‘I have a joke and it’s getting laughs but how can I get more laughs?’”

“To me, it’s about the comedy,” he continues. “My dream was to be able to play theaters and do comedy in front of people who kind of think I’m funny. I’ve gotten to where I wanted to go and I’m having the time of my life.”

Brian ReganFor more information about Brian, visit www.brianregan.com.

About the Author

Dylan P. Gadino

Dylan is the founder and editor in chief of Laughspin. He launched Punchline Magazine in 2005 (which became Laughspin in the summer of 2011) with childhood friend Bill Bergmann. Dylan lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and two sons. He hopes the Shire is real.