The Man Behind the Funny:
A Q&A with comedian Brian Regan
He doesn’t even like to tell people he’s a comedian. But we got this humble guy to talk anyway as a prequel to his upcoming standup special Brian Regan: Live from Radio City Music Hall.
Brian has released three hour-long TV specials, three CDs and four DVDs. Brian Regan: Live From Radio City Music Hall (2015) is airing on Comedy Central and is available on CD & DVD and as a video or audio do wnload.
YES! Weekly: Have you ever overheard someone re-telling one of your bits?
Brian Regan: Yeah, one time I was on a flight and I was sitting in my seat and I heard a guy doing my airline joke about boarding planes (and having to walk past first-class on the way to coach). I assumed he was doing it for me. And I looked up and realized he didn’t even notice I was there. It was weird to me, like, ‘Wow, that’s my bit, and they don’t even know I’m sitting here!’
Y!W: So you never approached him?
You could have made his day!
BR: Oh no, no, no. I always find that a little too ‘pounding on your chest,’ like ‘look at me.’ I was flattered enough that they knew the bit.
Y!W: Do you feel pressured to be funny at social gatherings? What are you like at parties?
BR: There’s some pressure there sometimes. When you’re on stage, you flip the switch and it’s still you, but only the funny side of you. Off stage, it’s more evenkeeled. Sometimes I’m funny; sometimes I’m not. It’s awkward when you meet people that don’t understand that.
That’s why I never tell people what I do for a living unless they point blank ask me. I’m always vague and murky when I talk to people. I’m like, ‘eh, I was in Washington recently.’ ‘Why?’ ‘You know I was traveling. I travel.’ ‘For what?’ ‘I was working.’ ‘What do you do?’ ‘I work and travel—’ Finally they grab me and I say, ‘I’m a comedian; I’m a comedian. Please don’t make me make you laugh!’
Y!W: Do you have anyone you use as a soundboard to test out a new joke?
BR: I have a person bound and gagged in the basement and I go down there and do my routines for them. No, not really. I just try stuff on stage in front of an audienceâ€” that to me is the best soundboard.
Y!W: Have you ever had a joke or skit flop on stage?
BR: I don’t know how many times you can write the word many!
The good thing about comedy is you can do a ‘saver’ and laugh about the fact that you didn’t get a laugh, which a lot of other occupations don’t get that luxury. You don’t want your brain surgeon saying, ‘I can’t believe I just messed up like that.’ You don’t want a pilot getting on the intercom and saying, ‘I did not see that mountain, folks.’ But if a joke doesn’t work, people are willing to laugh at the fact that they didn’t laugh.
Y!W: How have you changed as a comedian since your start, and besides those late 80s, early 90s fashion choices, would you do anything differently?
BR: Well everything is going to evolve, including fashion choices. I keep the bright, loud-colored jackets though because I know they’re going to come back!
But, you know everything evolves.
Y!W: Do you think the fact that you got your start on primetime television, which is censored for a general audience, is why your humor is so clean?
BR: I was always pretty clean anyway.
I didn’t work clean because I was hoping to ultimately do a TV spot. I just always worked clean because that’s how I like to work.
But I do remember watching a comedian a few years ago that was doing a spot on Johnny Carson and I knew the bit from him working in comedy clubs, and it had a dirty word in it. And he had to change the word in The Tonight Show spot and it didn’t get the laugh it normally got. And I remember thinking I don’t ever want to be in that position. I want to be able to do my stuff the way I do it without having to alter it. So maybe it was a tiny factor.
Y!W: What were you like as a kid; did you cut up a lot? Honestly, were you a bit annoying?
BR: No, I don’t think I was annoying. You know you hear the term, ‘class clown,’ I was way too uncomfortable to be that. I called myself, ‘the small circle of friends clown.’
Y!W: Does one of your two kids want to grow up to be a comedian?
BR: I don’t know. They’re both funny. My son says he doesn’t want any part of being on stage. He wants to be a lawyer and find loopholes, which I think is interesting. And my daughter wants to be a singer and a pet-sitter, which, to me, is an interesting business card. !
Brian Regan performs at The Cone Denim Entertainment Center, 117 S. Elm St., Greensboro, on June 25. Tickets for the 6 p.m. show are sold out. Tickets for the 9:30 p.m. show are $55-$65. For tickets and more information call 336-378-9646 or visit cdecgreensboro.com.