Comedian Brian Regan performs at the Garde Thursday
Even though Brian Regan has been an A-list comedian for decades, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Besides his recently released Netflix special “Nunchucks and Flamethrowers” (which, we have to say, is just hilarious), he’s also been making appearances on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon,” driving around with Jerry Seinfeld in “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee,” touring the country and selling out theaters along the way. If one thing is clear, Regan is now one of the top comedians headlining the country.
His comedy style, which is reminiscent of Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan with a touch of Jim Carrey, is keenly observant of life’s most mundane and idiotic annoyances. For example, he can turn his observations about the board game “Mouse Trap,” or line-cutting families at Disney Land, into bits that will make you laugh so hard it hurts. Combine that with his signature physicality, sarcasm and slow-boil humor, and Regan is pure comic genius.
And what’s more: Regan never resorts to profanities or crude humor to get audiences laughing.
On Thursday, Regan, who is a Miami native but who now lives in Las Vegas, will be returning to southeastern Connecticut for his debut performance at the Garde Arts Center. He spoke by phone recently about what to expect for that show and his journey to becoming one of today’s top comedians. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
On whether he can offer hints on what might be included in the show:
“Not really. The topics themselves are less interesting than what I do with the topics themselves. I remember reading a preview one time for one of my shows, and it made me laugh because it says, ‘Brian Regan, who talks about food, traveling and some other ridiculous things, is coming to town.’ And I remember thinking, “What kind of reader would say, ‘Honey, we’ve got to check this guy out! He’s exploring our favorite subjects!’” So the topics to me are incidental, it’s what you find within the topics that makes it interesting. But I do talk about my OCD, I mention that. I have a routine with that. So that’s something people might want to be interested in.”
On being known as a clean comedian:
“Being a clean comedian, first of all, I cringe at the term. I just want to be a comedian. Clean to me is an asterisk way down the line of things that are important to me. But it clearly is very important to some fans. Some like the fact that it’s clean. But I’m not doing it for them. I do it because it’s how I like to do the comedy. I like to make sure that they are laughing at the ideas and not the words. It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes, if people hear the word clean, they go, ‘Ah, I don’t think I would like this guy.’ Whereas if they came and saw my show, they would probably have a good time and not even realize that it’s clean. ... One favorite thing for me is when someone will come up to me and say, ’I saw your show. I laughed like hell. And then someone pointed out to me that it was clean and I was like, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize that.‴ That’s the way I like it. I don’t want the audience walking out and saying, ‘Wow, THAT WAS CLEAN!’ I want them walking out saying, ‘Wow, that was funny.’”
When he decided to become a comedian:
“I’m guessing I was around 20. I went to college thinking I was going to be an accountant, and then after a few weeks of accounting classes, I was like, ’No. I can’t. I don’t want the alarm clock going off every morning for the rest of my life, and I wake up and go, ‘I’m going to go add up numbers!’ I just realized that, even though I was pretty good at math, that didn’t excite me, it didn’t give me any passion. But then, when I hit on the idea of being a comedian, I switched majors to communications and theater arts, and it was in that world that I decided to be a comedian, and I was like, ‘Okay, this is something that fuels me. This is something that I really want to do and I’m willing to go through whatever rough patches there are to get there.’”
A bit about the journey to get to where he is now:
“There were lots of tough times. Years ago, I had to take Greyhound buses from gig to gig. After one morning, I went to a gas station that had an old rusty Greyhound sign, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if a bus is supposed to come by here at 6 in the morning. It doesn’t seem like it’s supposed to happen.’ And then, all of a sudden, there is a bus pulled up, and the bus driver opened the door and he was laughing, and he said, ‘I’ve stopped at this stop every day for six months or a year. No one has ever been here for this pickup. You’re the only guy who’s ever been here for this pickup.’ He says, ‘You’re welcome to get on, but every seat is taken and you’re going to have to sit on the floor.’ So I got on the bus, and I put my bag in the little overhead thing, and I literally had to sit on the floor. What’s weird is that you had to go up a step to get in the seats, so talk about condescending. I’m sitting on the floor, like in a trench, and I’m looking around, and I’m going to my next city, and I remember laughing to myself thinking, ‘Well, they say you have to pay dues. If this is paying dues, I’m certainly getting it done.’ You have to do something like that if you want to make it.”
On figuring out his comedic style:
“When I first started, I was already mostly clean anyway, but I wasn’t 100 percent clean. Some of my earlier jokes were dirty. I had four-letter words and some things here and there. My act was already 95 percent clean already when I started. So the reason I decided to be 100 percent clean is because I’m very OCD. I want to be 100 percent something. Not 95 percent on something. I was never able to get 100 percent on something in school on any test, but I can be 100 clean. I do it because it feels good mathematically for it to be 100 percent clean. I didn’t do it so that an audience member would not have to hear a four-letter word. It felt like, ‘Hey, I’m delivering an entire show that’s about ideas and about goofiness and about silliness without hitting these little buzz words and these little buzz topics.’ I do it because if I can get this room laughing, I know it’s because of the stuff I thought of.”
About the physicality he incorporates into routines:
“Well, the physical part of the act is something that I never really worked on. It was always the ideas that would come first. And then, a lot of the bits that I do are what they call act outs. They are scenarios. It’s me and another character. It’s me and an eye doctor. Or it’s me and a flight attendant. Or it’s me and an inanimate object. It’s me and an ironing board. It’s me and a microwave. There is a little scenario that I’m acting out to convey what the idea is, and so I have to act it, but I don’t work on it. I just do it because I have to do it. Sometimes the first time I’m seeing it is when I’m watching it on TV. Then I see it, and I’ll watch and go, ‘Oh, wow, I had no idea that I did that.’ It’s what happens because what has to happen, I guess.”
When he realized that this physicality worked for standup:
“I’ll tell you this, one time when I think it kicked into higher gear for me is when, years ago, I had to go perform at a bar, and the microphone had cut out on the comedian before me. And that person then just died for the rest of his set. They didn’t want the show to stop, so I had to go on for a half hour, with no microphone. I just said to myself, ‘I’m going to have to, you know, crank up the energy here a little bit so the people can hear me and really put some physicality into this.’ And I killed. I remember thinking, ‘Hey, man, maybe there is something to this. Maybe even (when) the mic is working, if I amp this up a tad, it will help suck the audience in.’ That happened when I was living in New York City between 1986 and 1994. You have moments in your career where you go, ‘Ah, okay, I learned something there.’ I learned, if you really put it out there for the people, they are much more inclined to build their half of the bridge.”