Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids
Aug. 26, 6:30 p.m. doors, 7:30 p.m. show
meijergardens.org, (616) 957-1580
Unlike many stand-up comedians, superstar Brian Regan doesn’t fear the infinite space of the great outdoors.
“Most comedians I think are a little hesitant to play outdoors, but I don’t have a problem with it,” Regan told Revue. “I was doing a show one place outdoors and I was doing a joke about the moon. I looked up and I literally saw the moon up there and I was like, ‘Wow, I guess I’m a prop comedian. Take a look! It’s the biggest prop in comedy history.’”
The only comedian on Meijer Gardens’ slate of shows this summer, Regan hasn’t hesitated to perform at outdoor venues throughout his 35-year career — including a memorable evening at the legendary Red Rocks in Colorado.
Still, his show here in Grand Rapids marks his first at botanical gardens and will lead into a series of other surprising firsts for the veteran comedian, including his first-ever live-broadcast special from New York’s Radio City Music Hall — airing Sept. 26 on Comedy Central.
Over the years Regan’s studied mix of clean jokes and physical comedy has attracted a surprisingly multi-generational audience, although he says that’s entirely accidental.
“I had jokes about little league baseball and feeling stupid in school and stuff like that,” he said of his early career. “I didn’t know until I started playing theaters where people could bring kids that [they were fans.] So at first it kind of weirded me out, like, ‘Oh jeez, I don’t want people to think I’m doing a kiddie show. I don’t want them to think I’m going to be twisting balloon animals onstage.’
“I mean they’re not going to be offended by anything I say, but at the same time I have jokes about signing mortgage documents and I have jokes about having high cholesterol,” he added. “So kids aren’t going to necessarily relate to everything I say.”
Now a father himself, Regan admits that having a career in comedy lets him reconnect with his own childhood in more ways than just making funny faces and getting to play outside.
“Everybody loves Halloween because it’s the one day you have an excuse to put on a Dracula outfit and go, ‘This is OK for today.’ And it’s the same thing with comedy,” he said. “I have a built-in excuse to get onstage and act silly for an hour because I’m doing a comedy show. If I just broke out and started acting like that at a party, I think people might start looking at me strange.”
Joking aside, Regan has an impressive list of TV appearances, including two previous Comedy Central specials, and a staggering 28 spots on The Late Show with David Letterman. He performed there for the last time this past May during Letterman’s final run of shows.
“He’s not a social butterfly,” Regan said of Letterman. “But I would hear from his writers and the people on the staff that he likes what I do. When somebody of that caliber likes what you do, it feels like being knighted, like you’re kneeling before them and they’re putting their sword on your shoulder.”
Known as a “comedian’s comedian,” Regan can count Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Dennis Miller, Chris Rock and other legendary funnymen as his longtime fans.
Rock even cast Regan as a snarky satellite radio show host in his movie Top Five last year. It was Regan’s first proper film credit. His only other role came when he played himself in Dying to Do Letterman, a documentary about a terminal cancer patient’s quest to perform on the show.
Offstage, Regan said his family remains his biggest fans, his brother Dennis Regan has followed suit by also making his living in stand-up.
“I was doing comedy for a few years and I think he probably saw me onstage and said, ‘This is the guy I put in a headlock. If he can do this, I can do this,’” Regan said. “He has a little bit more of an edge to what he does.
He reads a lot. He likes to write jokes about a wide variety of subjects. So I watch his show and think, ‘All I do is cross my eyes and hunch over.’ While he’s up there talking about the Great Wall of China, his travels and his readings, I’m like, ‘Just make some silly noises, man! Crawl around, that’s what I do!’”