Q&A: Comedy Central Stand-Up Comedian Brian Regan
We talked to the clean comic about his dark side, brotherly love and standup in the age of YouTube. He performs in Honolulu May 29.
Photo: Courtesy of LIVE NATION
In an industry as hit-or-miss as comedy, Brian Regan found his niche: making fun of himself, but in ways in which we can all relate (who hasn’t said “You too” after the waitress said to enjoy your meal?). Even with two Comedy Central specials, two CDs, three DVDs and record-breaking performances around the country, Regan stays humble as someone just as clueless as the rest of us.
In 2013, we talked to the clean comic about his dark side, brotherly love and standup in the age of YouTube.
Comedians have to be skeptical in order to poke fun at things. Does this make you more jaded in real life?
Some people just poke a stick at other people and other things and never poke a stick at themselves. I like to also poke a stick at myself. I think if the audience realizes, “OK, he’s not taking himself too seriously, we’re more willing to take his little jabs at everything else.” There’s a cynicism involved, but you try not to let it overwhelm you. I still like to enjoy the world that I live in.
A lot of people talk about you being a clean comic. Has there ever been anything dirty you’ve really wanted to talk about onstage but couldn’t, because of your reputation?
For the most part, the kind of comedy I come up with is, for lack of a better definition, clean. That’s not the point of it; I don’t sit down and go “I’m gonna come up with some clean comedy today.” I just tend to think about everyday things that don’t go in certain directions. But to answer your question, yes, there are times when I think of something that is dirty or blue or something like that. It might be the kind of thing that at this part in my career I choose not to put into my act because, sometimes, now that I’m playing at theaters, people can bring teenage kids or even younger, and I don’t want [there to be] a kid out in the audience holding a balloon and I say something so rough that it pops their balloon.
Do you have an outlet for your rougher jokes?
People who are close to me know how dark I can be, and [they] like to say, “If your fans only knew how dark and twisted your brain can be, they would be quite surprised.” So the closer you are to me, the less clean I become.
You’ve been on the Late Show with David Letterman more than two dozen times. What’s it like having a relationship with him and the show?
Well, I’m honored. The only time I ever see him is when I’m lucky enough to do the show, but I’ve heard from people on the staff that he likes me. He likes my comedy. When I’m out there doing standup, he’s sitting at the desk behind me and I can hear him cackling, and you feel like a million bucks, man. You feel like you’ve been knighted, to have someone like Dave Letterman think you’re funny. So it’s always a thrill to be able to do that show, and the fact that they keep having me back means the world to me.
You have to deliver your jokes every time you go on stage as if you’re just making those revelations, but because of YouTube, people might already know a big part of your set. How do you keep it fresh?
I try to always keep writing and adding and changing, so a lot of times when I do a show … a lot of that is not out on YouTube. I take a lot of pride in trying to turn my show over so that if people come and see me, they will see some stuff that they’re familiar with, but I hope they will also see some stuff they’ve never heard before. That’s one of my favorite compliments after a show, when people say, “Hey, we saw you two years ago, and most of the stuff you did tonight we’ve never heard before.” It makes you feel good.
How often do you write new material?
Constantly. Well, maybe I’ll back that up (laughs). I don’t write when I’m sleeping and I don’t write when I’m driving. But I’m always trying to think of goofy things and [if something] pops into my head I jot it down on a napkin. That’s one of the fun things about doing this—if you’ve got a show that night, you can think of something at 5 in the afternoon and try it out at 8 o’clock that night. There are other things of an artistic nature that take a while before the end result is known, but with comedy, you can find out pretty quickly whether or not it has any legs.
Your brother is also a comedian. Are you guys supportive of each other, or are you mad he’s copying you?
You’re talking about my archenemy? I’m joking. We’re very supportive. There are six brothers and two sisters in my family and we all are very supportive. In fact, in my family, oddly, there are eight kids and only four careers: There are two comedians, two firefighters, two schoolteachers and two salesmen, so we have to be pretty close to be able to share occupations like that.
Brian Regan performs at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave., Fri., May 29, 8 p.m., $39.75–$49.75 plus fees, ticketmaster.com