Brian Regan is a comic’s comic. Unlike most comic’s comics, he’s able to sell-out large theaters and occasionally places like Red Rocks. That’s where U2 played under a blood red sky. I’m getting off topic. Regan is a comic’s comic because he’s one of Jerry Seinfeld’s favorites and Patton Oswalt’s favorites. The king of the clubs and the kind of the indies that is friends with the King of Queens both love the Letterman favorite. Oh yeah, Letterman loves the guy, too.
We spoke to Regan before he comes to DC for two shows at the Warner Theatre. That means Regan will entertain 1,847 people per night. The DC Improv holds 300 people.
You are still doing the 100 dates a year. How does the travel not get to you?
I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do stand-up comedy for a living, and I only have to do the hour show each night, so I can put up with having to be on an airplane here and there, and being in a hotel here and there, plus I’ve gotten to a point in my career, where I can travel a little more nicely than I’m used to. There was a time, and I’m not making this up, when I hopped on a Greyhound bus, and every seat was taken on the bus and I had to sit on the floor of the greyhound bus in between people, and I remember looking up at these people going “I am jealous of people sitting in bus seats…maybe one day if I play my cards right I can be one of them, sitting in bus seats.”
Do you remember what year that was?
Uh, that would’ve been awhile back, that would’ve probably been in the 1980s, a long time ago when I first started.
Well, I had already been ticking around the idea of being a comedian. I was already moving in that direction and then the comic performed there and I found out through the campus entertainment committee what he was being paid for the night, I was like “Wow..” I didn’t realize it took that guy a long time to get to that point. And I thought, well, if you’re decent at it then maybe at one point you can make a living out of it. That moved me even more along that quest.
What do you think of all the other comics coming up that have podcasts and web-series and stuff like that? You’re one of very few that are a pure stand-up, and you seem to be cool with being pure stand-up and all the stand-ups really respect you.
That means a lot to me, that other comedians like what I do, that’s like the highest compliments when your peers like what you do so that means the world to me. But I have no problem with people doing whatever they want to do. If other comedians want to do podcasts or get in to acting then, you know, everyone has their own goals in life. I wouldn’t be opposed to doing something outside of stand-up as long as it’s creative and it allows me to do what I feel is funny, but right now the only thing that provides me that opportunity is stand-up comedy.
But you’re selling out Red Rocks it’s not like nobody is asking you to do anything else…
Well, don’t be surprised. You know the people in Hollywood are clueless to the fact that I’m selling out Red Rocks, they have no idea what the heck I’m doing.
You’re going to major cities as well as smaller cities, it’s not like you’re just hitting a college tour or something like that.
Correct, I try to do a full court press, I like the big cities but I also like the small towns, I like hitting everywhere. It’s fun to do like Chicago or Denver or something like that but it’s also fun to go to Peoria, and go to the theater there and, you know it’s fun. I love being able to see this whole country.
How are you working out materials if you’re doing theaters everywhere? Are you just adding a minute or 90 seconds per show each night?
I just have to discipline myself to work the new stuff in there, and kind of book end it with stuff that I know have worked before and I know will work after it. One of the great things about stand-up comedy is that people will allow you to throw a foul ball here or there, and they accept the fact that it’s a craft and that it needs some work. I acknowledge that. If a crowd expects me not to throw new stuff in there, then I don’t know, I don’t want to say, please don’t come, but that’s just not what I do. I’m constantly evolving the act so it’s ever changing. I savor compliments when people come up to me and say “Wow, we saw you 2 years ago but most of the stuff we saw tonight we didn’t see the last time,” I keep it moving, you know?
Yeah, it’s interesting that you do live in Vegas, and that’s not really what Vegas comedy is known for. I’m not saying you’re a Vegas comic it’s just kind of interesting.
Yeah I don’t even do comedy here….
I just don’t like to perform where I live. I think I’m the only worker in the existence of workers that wants the longest commute possible. Many people would like the factory where they work right across the street so they can get over there in 5 minutes, I want to go to an airport and fly 2,000 miles away from where I live and my work, and I feel like it helps me to wear completely two hats. Out on the road I’m a comedian, when I’m here I take off that hat. I’m a daddy, and I like both worlds.
Will you let your kids see you? I know clean comic is not the nicest thing to say but you’re a comic that the kids can see, have they seen you perform?
Yeah, they travel with me quite a bit, once a month I take them on a road weekend with me, but I don’t want them to watch my whole show every night, I don’t want to burn them out on it, so I tell them they can watch, every now and then, 5 minutes. Just come out at random and watch 5 minutes, and head back. I don’t want them to roll their eyes like “Oh, there’s daddy doing that goofy stuff that he does…” They’re still at an age where they kind of like me and I don’t want that to change.
If you’re prepping a Letterman set and have 5 minutes to do stand-up before panel, how do you work that specific set out, because you’ve done it more than twenty times?
I practice them on my live shows working up to it. If I know I have a Letterman coming up, when I hit the stage I know that the first 5 minutes of that show is the upcoming Letterman spot, and I won’t even get a round of applause yet for the opening act, because I don’t want to do that. I want to do it exactly the way I do it on Letterman, and then I’ll do the 5 minutes, and then I’ll stop and get some water and say “Hey, how about a hand for our first comedian tonight,” but you want to come out and get it in your bones, and even then it’s never going to be perfect, that’s part of the thrill of it. You’re going to go out there, you’re going to flub a word or have a moment that doesn’t quite hit the way you planned, but whatever, that’s what’s exciting about it. It’s just kind of a moving target; you can never nail it down perfectly.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbwNY-TPgD8
Is it exciting regardless of where you perform or do you feel differently if you’re performing for more than like 10,000 people?
It’s always exciting. When I first started there was a night when I got on stage and there was literally 1 person in the audience. Literally. They let the local comedians come on at the end of the night at the comedy club where I started and I was like the fifth local comedian and they had already seen the main show and they get all the locals up at the end and I got on stage to one guy, so I’ve performed for as few as 1, and as many as however many thousands, but the idea when you’re on stage, you’re trying to make that group, whatever it is, 1, you want it to be 1 entity, like an instrument. You want to make this big thing laugh. So I don’t really go on stage and think of it as x-amount of people. Not that I’m naïve and don’t know that. I don’t think of it as I have to make 1,000 or 2,000 different people laugh, I just think of it as a thing, I’m going to make this big thing laugh.
So it’s like one giant blob?
Exactly. That’s a way of insulting my audience, by telling them they are one big blob.
Is there anybody out there that’s doing material that you wish you could do but you just don’t have that type of voice?
I’m capable of thinking of some very dark and twisted stuff. When I’m hanging out with my friends or brothers or stuff like that, I can get very dark or twisty and there are times where I think oh I want to explore this type of comedy on stage. But it’s not that big a deal to me because I like the way I approach my standup, I like trying to get as much out of fairly mundane subjects. My subject matter is pretty bland on purpose. I’m trying to find the peculiar within the mundane. I want to talk about going to the eye doctor, and I want to talk about buying shoes, and I just want to talk about stuff everyone does, or sees, or experiences, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t like other kinds of comedy, there are comedians who can do the dark and twisted stuff, and I can enjoy it as a fan, but its just not what I do as a comedian.
Why do you think there’s so much darkness that goes along with something that is supposed to be fun?
I think that comedy kind of evolves, and it’s kind of going through this phase, or era if you will, where being a little snarky is kind of the nature of the beast and I think there’s a place for all kinds of comedy. But I think it’s a mistake sometimes when people see “Oh, there are 10 comedians and 8 of them do this, so what these 8 do must be what comedy is” and they exclude the other 2, it’s just different and there might be a time when less snarky stuff is on fire, who knows.