A Chat with Brian Regan

Brian Regan is a true comedy veteran. Performing since the ‘80s, Regan has recorded multiple specials, has appeared in multiple shows, and performed on Late Show with David Letterman 28 times. He also recorded Comedy Central’s first ever live special “Live from Radio City Music Hall” last year.

Photo provided by Michael O’Brien Entertainment

Photo provided by Michael O’Brien Entertainment

Other comedians shower Regan with compliments and many claim that he is their favorite. He was one of the first guests on Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars getting Coffee. In a later episode of the series Seinfeld and Bill Burr discuss how much they love his comedy.

Regan is known for his observational humor and that he works “clean,” without cursing or being obscene. According to Regan he focuses less on that than his listeners and he only focuses on telling jokes that are funny.

Brian Regan is performing at the Murat Theatre on Thursday Nov. 17.

The Campus Citizen caught up with Regan for a phone interview the day after the election.

How do you think Trump being elected is going to affect you?

Well I woke up this morning, and my phone is dead so I’m calling you on my cell phone, so I figure changes are already happening. Somebody already did something, we live in a new world now where my phone doesn’t work, so I’m blaming Trump. No, ya’ know, we are going to have to see what happens. I’m purposefully vague on this subject because it’s quite polarizing.

You’re comedy tends to leave politics out anyway…

I touch on political campaign ads and stuff but I tend to walk a tightrope so that both sides of the isle all can hopefully enjoy the comedy. That isn’t to say that I don’t think there is a place for political comedy, there are comedians who pick a side and that’s valid but that isn’t really my comedy world.

How do you keep your comedy world fresh?

I’m fortunate in that I tend to notice things and I do like to keep turning the material over. I’ve been at it a while and I’ve got a handful of hours of my stuff out there. As much as I like it when people come up and say that my show is funny I also like it when they come up and say my show is new, that’s also a compliment. I like to keep running on virgin snow, to keep making new footprints.

Do you still get nervous when you go onstage?

It depends on the situation. If I’m performing in front of people who are there to see me, I don’t get that nervous because I know I’m going on in a friendly atmosphere. But if I’m performing for people assembled for a different reason I can still get nervous, if I’m doing Jimmy Fallon’s show, or a corporate show, or a charity show, the audience might not necessarily know who I am, that could create some nerves.

You’ve spoken about being labeled as a “clean” comic, and how people judge you based on that, is that a point of frustration for you?

It thumps me a little bit. I do realize that there are people who like the fact that I work “clean,” but that’s not why I do it. I don’t hop on a big white horse and say “I’m going to ride it into town and bring some clean comedy to these folks.” I just think of things that make me laugh and hopefully the audience will laugh as well. I don’t even think about whether or not it’s clean, I guess at the end of the day it happens to be clean but that’s not the point of it. To me it’s like going through a museum and looking at a bunch of paintings and you can either go, “wow look at what this artist did or that artist did,” but what if someone just walked through the same museum and went, “wow look at how clean all these paintings are. They’re all clean, look at it not one filthy thing.” The person next to them would go, “what are you talking about?” “They’re so clean, I’m going to go get my aunt and bring her and show her all these clean paintings,” they’re just paintings. I feel that way about the comedy, it’s more important to other people that it’s clean than it is to me.

Photo provided by Michael O’Brien Entertainment

Photo provided by Michael O’Brien Entertainment

How do you feel that comedy has changed since you started?

Every art form evolves. What’s interesting to me is that there’s a ‘60s kind of music, there’s a ‘70s kind of music, there’s an ‘80s kind of music, and when you think of those decades you think of a different kind of music. Comedy evolves too, but people don’t chop it up into decades like that, but there is an evolution to it. When new comedians come on the scene they see what’s already been done and they want to create their own vibe, and that’s how it should be. It’s harder to define, comedy not only can you put it into decades but you can also subdivide it into rock, country, reggae, jazz and all that. There are certain descriptions like political comedy but it’s very challenging to use words to describe comedy.

Do you miss mullets at all?

I’m growing one right now, I’m regrowing my mullet. Just like NFL teams have throwback jersey’s, I’m going to have my throwback mullet. I look at some of my old photos, and I go man-o-man that’s the one I approved, that’s the one I said yes to!

Fashion seems to be the thing that has changed the most in your career, you’re always funny and the jokes still hold up but not your clothes…

You look back and there were certain comedians in the ‘80s that did specials back then where they’re wearing big crazy parachute pants, like MC Hammer pants. George Carlin was the smartest of the comedians, he realized to make comedy as timeless as possible he just wore black. In his specials he wore all black and you can look back 30 years later and you don’t think ‘wow that’s dated’ you just listen to the comedy. You just have to be careful what you wear, especially if it’s on TV.

Bill Burr says you’re an angry guy. Is that true?

I’m mad he said that (laughing). I’m furious with him, I’m going to call him up and give him a piece of my mind. No, he and I did a charity event together and we got to watch each other's shows and over some cocktails we were describing each other’s shows to each other and as a comedian he was able to touch into the fact that I come off as friendly and all that onstage but there is an underlying frustration with the world and it tickles me that he was able to pick up on that.

What made you want to get onstage?

There’s a number of reasons, I was always a kind of funny guy and I liked making people laugh. When I was young I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this life, and I thought maybe I’ll be an accountant, that’s one of the things I thought when I was a freshman in college. But my eyes glazed over when I went to my accounting class, it wasn’t until I hit on the idea of being a comedian that I started noticing this word called passion. I thought I don’t get passionate about accounting but I do get passionate about comedy. It was a fun thing to take, to say this is a bizarre quest to take on.

What keeps you getting back on stage?

I haven’t gotten bored with the quest. Every time before the show starts I look out and hear the murmur of the audience, see a microphone out there, and a stool with a bottle of water on it, I’m intrigued every time. Wow this is a beautifully simplistic but amazingly complex art form, it’s one of those things that you’re constantly trying to get better at.

Is there anything special about Indianapolis to you?

When we were kids my dad worked for Eastern Airlines and we could fly anywhere we wanted for basically free and we were all at the airport and the city we were going to didn’t have enough seats on it for our family. So we walked down the concourse and my dad said, “hey this plane over here is going to Indianapolis, let’s go.” So we all hopped on the plane and went to Indianapolis, it was so bizarre walking by the gate and going to a city. We had the greatest time in Indianapolis. I was a little at the time.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.