Brian Regan on Playing it Clean, Getting Coffee with Seinfeld and More
Comedian Brian Regan, a Letterman regular and car buddy of Jerry Seinfeld, will perform this Friday in Big D. I set up a phoner with the G-rated comedian from his home in Vegas to get his take on his act, taking a car ride with the comedy king and growing up as one of eight kids.
You were recently featured in Jerry Seinfeld's web series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," which is exactly what it sounds like -- comedians driving around and getting coffee. Tell me about that experience. "When I heard that he wanted to include me in his first group of comedians he did these with, I was honored. Jerry Seinfeld's the king! It's weird 'cause there're cameras inside the car, and then there's a van driving after you or next to you. So you don't ever really forget that you're being taped."
Like Seinfeld, you're known for doing clean comedy. In fact, you told The Salt Lake Tribune that clean comedy is more truthful for you. Can you expand on that? "I always feel like a performer should be doing what he or she wants to do, and not what he or she thinks the audience wants. And I like to do clean comedy. But I don't think of it that way. I just talk about everyday things. If you stand back and look back on it after the fact, you say -- oh, I guess that was clean. I hate to equate myself with The Beatles, but you don't listen to them and think that was clean. You just think, that was good music.
"I don't walk on stage thinking, Boy am I gonna do a lily-white show tonight! This is gonna be so wholesome.
"The clean thing is more important to other people than to me."
You recently made your 26th appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Tell me about going on Letterman -- it's obviously different from normal club stand up. "I'm fortunate that they seem to like me over there. To have a comedy show like that, a host like David Letterman, think you're funny -- means the world.
"It's a real unique, peculiar quest to have a set in four and a half minutes. It's a lot of fun but a lot more work than most people realize. When you come out, the studio audience ... doesn't know who I am. They're there to see Letterman and a taping. They have no idea who will be on the show. You have to get their attention quickly."
In 2011, you released your second comedy album, All By Myself, through your website. Louis CK also started releasing his CDs and shows on his own personal website. Musicians are doing this, too. Why the trend among comedians? Is it better to release your own work? "There are good sides to it and bad sides to it. For the most part, it's a good thing. It used to be that you'd have to convince people in tall buildings to release your album. Now you can say to heck with those people in tall buildings.
"However, it might not go viral as easily as a highly produced album. You'll do fine with the fans you already have, but it's hard to get new eyes on you."
I saw that you tweet some pretty good one-liners. Do you ever turn those into full bits for stage? "I haven't gone that direction. I act out scenes in my comedy. So it's not the kind of things that play out in a one-liner. But I know it's part of the world and you need to use it."
When you're out and about, doing everyday stuff, how do you know when something is funny and could be part of your act? "You just get a feeling. You're never gonna know for sure. This is a philosophical question -- if I find something funny, do others have to find it funny for it to be funny? If someone somewhere finds something funny, then it's funny. Now, is it funny enough to be in someone's act? That's a different story."
So tell me about growing up in Miami with seven siblings. Did you stand out, or were you part of the crowd? "No, I didn't stand out. I blended in. I was fourth out of eight. Everyone in my family was funny. I think my oldest brother might be the funniest out of all of us, and he doesn't even do stand up. He's a car salesman.
"One of my brothers is a comedian [Dennis Regan].
"I think that fuels my comedy. I blend in, not stand out. When I'm on stage, I'm an example of all of us. We're all in this together, this ride called life."
I read that a football coach at Heidelberg College in Ohio recommended you try out for theater instead of your original major, accounting. How did he know you'd be a good performer? "I went to my football coach cause I was disillusioned. I went to college, but I used football to get there.
"I thought I was gonna be an accounting major, but I didn't enjoy it at all. I didn't have a guidance counselor, so I went to my football coach.
"He said, 'You're a funny guy, you make everybody on the team laugh. Maybe communications/theater would be a better fit for you.'
"And I went, 'Theater?! Like, Shakespeare?' I went to see a few plays and switched majors."
So, Brian, anything else that I didn't ask? "You didn't ask about my powerful brain capacity and how intelligent I am. How everyone looks up to me 'cause of my computing abilities."
For more proof of Regan's insane intellect (and humor), head out to The Music Hall at Fair Park at 8 p.m. Friday.
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