Comedian Brian Regan returns to Toledo Jan. 9Written by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s fair to say Brian Regan has a rapport with Toledo. As the veteran comic prepares to return to the Glass City for a show at the Stranahan Theatre on Jan. 9, the memories of his previous visits to the area come back with acuity — and not just the times he’s played gigs here.
“Even though I grew up in Miami, Fla., I went to college at nearby Heidelberg University for about 30 years — I finally graduated 17 years after dropping out to become a comedian — so I have some history with the state of Ohio,” Regan said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star.
“I often flew into Toledo to get to school because Tiffin did not seem to have a major airport. Anyway, most of my Heidelberg classmates were from Ohio and so I have a fond feeling for the state and its inhabitants. So, when I play in Ohio, it’s much more likely that I’ll get a note backstage from a former classmate, then when I’m playing in California.”
After three decades of touring, though, it’s safe to say Regan feels comfortable taking the stage no matter where he is. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still uncertainty in the act of performing, however. No matter how skilled a comic may be, every night is different, and every crowd brings its own flavor.
“In one way, the experience can be boiled down to ‘Risk and Reward,’” Regan said. “A comedian risks much. A bad show is completely put around the standup’s neck. ‘THAT guy is NOT funny!’ No audience ever walks out of a show saying, ‘Boy, did WE stink!’ But when it goes well, the comedian gets all the credit. But, I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to use that credit at a gas station.”
Still, Regan has earned his reputation through years of work on the road. Since debuting as a comic in 1980, Regan has established himself as a rock-solid performer whose observational humor about the foibles of everyday life has earned him prestige from fans and fellow comics alike. While the comedy game has evolved a great deal over that period, Regan’s ability and approach has remained fairly constant, which he said is by design.
“Styles in all art forms tend to change over time. Comedy is no different. When I listen to routines from comedians from the ’50s and such, the material is never risqué or political. Now, those subjects are completely fair game. But I think it’s important for a comedian to not try to fit in with the current ‘style’ of comedy. I think a comedian should do what he or she thinks is funny, and not what he or she thinks other people will think is funny.”
This approach extends to his own work, he said. Regan tries not to be too overly analytical of his own success.
“I try very hard to avoid becoming a caricature of myself. I think, oftentimes, a comedian can become a ‘thing’ and then that ‘thing’ tends to define their craft. I don’t want to have a ‘thing.’ Maybe having a ‘thing’ can help someone become super huge, but I’d rather not become super huge if I have to do it with a ‘thing.’
“If anyone can figure out what I mean by any of that, let me know.”
Given his ability to point out the little ridiculous moments in life, though, does Regan feel a pressure to always be “on,” even when not performing? Not at all, he said.
“I’m pretty good at shutting down Mr. Funny Boy when I’m offstage. In fact, I think I can be amazingly unfunny sometimes. But I like to be a total human — with the funny part and the unfunny part making up the whole.”
Regan has also garnered a slew of television credits, with both his own comedy specials and appearances on talk shows to his credit — though he noted how the latter is so dissimilar from his usual performances, in terms of audience recognition.
“When I do Letterman, for example, Dave Letterman is always kind enough to give me a nice intro, but I would guess most of that studio audience has no clue who I am. It seems like the intro could just as well be, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome … a guy you never heard of!’”
Regan’s audience at the Stranahan on Jan. 9, though, will certainly be ready — and he’s prepared to take Toledo by storm once again.
“Look out, Toledoans!” Regan said in summation. “The half of my brain that is kind of funny sometimes is comin’ to town!”