Comic Brian Regan returns to ToledoWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Regan is a man who comes prepared.
Asked during a telephone interview with Toledo Free Press Star if he remembers his previous visits to the Glass City, Regan replied, “I have my notes in front of me. I was there in 2006 and 2008.”
He laughed and added, “And I have another note in front of me that says my name is Brian … Re ?… Rea? … Regan!”
If he ever really did have trouble remembering his name, Regan would find many who would be happy to remind him. The veteran comic has been performing for more than three decades and has cultivated a loyal fanbase that enjoys his wry, observational humor. He returns to the Toledo area Sept. 23 for a performance at the Stranahan Theater.
For most comics, there is a temptation to analyze, evaluate, determine what works and stick to it — a temptation Regan said he has steadfastly tried to reject during his years in the business.
“One thing that has always been important to me — which is maybe counter to the way a lot of other comedians approach it — is I try not to figure myself out. I think some people want to have this finite point of view and say, ‘Hey, I’m the comedian that does this.’ I don’t want to be so easily defined. I want to keep my options open,” Regan said.
“A lot of times, as soon as I feel I’m being defined a certain way, I usually write away from that because I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. There was a time in my career when people would start to say, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who always feels stupid!’ And I thought to myself, OK, I do have a lot of jokes like that, that’s a very truthful part of who I am, but I don’t want that to be the only thing that’s happening onstage.”
This is a big part of the reason why Regan has been so resistant to another label which constantly follows him — that he is a ‘clean’ comic, who doesn’t work in ‘blue’ or dirty material. “Because for me, ‘clean’ isn’t the point of it,” Regan stated. “I don’t sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and say, ‘Man, I’m gonna write some clean jokes today!’ I just write jokes or bits, whatever you want to call them, that have to do with things that are interesting to me.
“‘Clean,’ to me, is a medium, it’s not the end result. It’s like a painter using oils, it’s just what they’re working with. But the painting itself, the subject matter, that’s a different subject than the medium. And, to me, it’s the same with comedy. Clean is a medium, I like to work clean, that’s fun for me.”
Another part of the job that’s fun, Regan said, is the actual act of making audience members laugh. He noted how it is one of the most genuine reactions one can elicit from a crowd, because “people don’t usually fake laugh.”
“They will applaud after a song they don’t like, or they will react in ways that are not necessarily truthful. But laughter is usually an honest reaction. So one thing I like about stand-up is when you get people laughing, you know it’s really happening. You can trust it, you can trust that there’s a connection happening,” Regan said.
A big part of that connection comes from Regan’s ability to spotlight and find humor in the little, everyday moments that connect everyone who sits in his audience. A big inspiration for that direction, Regan said, came early in his comic experience.
“I was fortunate enough to watch Jerry Seinfeld perform at a comedy club back when I was still auditioning, and this was before he became big. He hadn’t even done ‘The Tonight Show’ yet. And I remember watching him and his stand-up,” Regan said. “He was amazingly good, and still is. But I remember thinking that there was a beauty to stand-up. Like, man, this guy is talking about the most absolute, everyday things, and this room of people is howling, you know?
“So, I really liked that. It encouraged me that comedy could come out of the mundane.”
Unlike Seinfeld, Regan said he has no aspirations to jump from the stage to a sitcom.
“For me, it is its own reward. I have always seen stand-up as an end result. A lot of people use it as a stepping stone to get to television and movies and stardom, and all that sort of thing,” Regan said.
“What’s weird about me is that I’m not interested in stardom at all. That’s not what motivates me. I like the comedy. I like when people laugh. For me, the fact that I have to become known is a negative. I want my comedy to be famous, I know that I kinda have to go along for the ride. But, to me, that’s kinda the price to pay for making the comedy famous.”