Exclusive Interview: Brian Regan Talks Stand-Up, Late Night Shows, and Jerry Seinfeld

Brian Regan’s national comedy tour makes a stop at The Riverside Casino & Golf Resort in Riverside, IA for two shows on October 19th. The comedian is widely known for his observational humor and physical gestures that have made audiences laugh all over the country. He recently phoned in to talk about his life as a comedian.

Q – You are one of the rare comedians who doesn’t guest on sitcoms or star in shitty movies like “Road Trip 18.” Was this done by design because I thought I read that you had a background in theater?

A – I studied that in college… well, I didn’t really study (laughs) but I was enrolled in the Communication and Theater Arts department. As far as TV shows and movies and stuff like that, it just hasn’t really been something that has worked out for me. It’s a combination of me not really pushing a whole lot from my side and no one really asking a lot from the other side.

Q – Your act is essentially clean and it appeals to a mass audience. The other aspect is the physical stuff - the facial expressions - that complement the material. I read that your material sometimes is exactly how it happened in your real life?

A – Everything gets exaggerated a little bit on stage. It’s weird. When you’re on stage, a lot of the nuts and bolts of what you’re talking about are true sometimes but sometimes you’re exaggerating a little bit. You tend to push the envelope on stage and magnify things to a degree. Like when I crouch around on stage, I don’t walk like that through airports.

Q – How do you determine when the right time is to incorporate new jokes or completely new material into your act?

A – I try to do it constantly. That’s one fun thing about doing this. If you think about something during the day you can try it out that night. Being able to do an hour or more on stage gives you plenty of opportunities to try out some new stuff and that’s always my favorite stuff to do – the new stuff. I always make it a point to try and move in that direction.

Q – People think that comedians work only an hour a night telling jokes. The reality is that you’re constantly traveling, staying in hotels, and being away from your family. How much of a toll does the traveling aspect take on you?

A – I’ve been doing this a long time so I’ve learned to try and be happy with the traveling. I know that it’s part of the nature of the beast. I always give myself plenty of time when I go to the airport. I cannot stand that tension and angst of trying to get myself through a security line. I try to enjoy it. I’m at the point where I can travel a little more nicely than I used to have to travel so that makes it OK.

(Photo by Brian Friedman)

Q – You’re used to doing the big theaters. Two of the main differences between the theaters and comedy clubs, other than seating capacity, are the intimacy and interaction between the comedian and the audience. Do you still get the chance to do clubs and what is your opinion about both venues?

A – I did comedy clubs a handful this summer and a handful last summer to re-experience that. Theaters, they sound like they’re not intimate but in a weird way they’re even more intimate because you get 100% focus; you can get into stuff that is a little more subtle sometimes than a comedy club. Comedy clubs are a little more circus like – you hear blenders in the background, there are waiters and waitresses walking around, people eating cheeseburgers, you’re just one of some things that are going on in the room. Of course you’re a big part. I really enjoy the focus of the theater. I can do a more double barrel sort of act. I can do more of the sillier stuff but I can also do some more subtle stuff that they have to be listening to, paying attention to, to follow. I like being able to do both.

Q – Last year, you performed on Letterman for the 25th time. You’ve come from that generation where appearing on Letterman, or “The Tonight Show,” was a huge deal. Now, with YouTube, Comedy Central, podcasts and essentially 30 or so late night programs, do you think appearing on Letterman or “The Tonight Show” still carries the same weight as it did 15, 20 years ago?

A – It’s still a nice thing to be able to get that national exposure. It’s not as momentous as it was back when there were like three TV channels. It used to be you did ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’ and the next night you headlined in Las Vegas. Now, it’s still a big deal but it’s one of a number of things you have to do to get your comedy out there.  

Q – I’ve covered stand-up for a long time, interviewed hundreds of comics, and whenever I ask, “Which comedians do you like watching?” the two most common answers are Jim Norton and Brian Regan. So, aside from Brian Regan, which comics do you enjoy watching?

A – Jim Norton! (laughs) He’s the only one left. There are a bunch of people doing things that I like. I like Bill Burr a lot. I think he’s doing some real interesting stuff. I just saw Jerry Seinfeld here in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. I was blown away. I’ve worked with him in the past and after he did his TV show he threw away his entire act and started fresh and that’s a big thing to do and it’s going to take a while before you get your legs back underneath you. When I saw him a couple weeks ago I was really, really impressed. He had a good, solid one hour. It was funny, interesting, so I’ve always liked what he does. I like Maria Bamford a lot. Those crazy off the track characters she does. So there are different people doing different things.


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He also is the author of the novels, The Extraordinary Life of Shady Gray, Hello Lesbian! and Anonymous. Visit him at www.tanamor.com. Email him at jason@zoiksonline.com.
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