Wednesday, 30 August 2017 16:28

The ‘Not-Too-Bad’ Comedy of Brian Regan

Written by  Eric Mitts
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The ‘Not-Too-Bad’ Comedy of Brian Regan Brian Friedman

OK, let’s get one thing straight when it comes to stand-up comedian Brian Regan: His birthday is actually June 2 — not Oct. 2 like the internet might lead his friends and fans to believe. 

“I have a good friend who always calls me on Oct. 2 to wish me a happy birthday, because that’s my Wikipedia birthday, and I never corrected him because I always got a kick out of it,” Regan said. “It’s nice for me, because I get two birthdays out of it. I get my actual birthday on June 2 and then I get my Wikipedia birthday.”

So now that it’s out there, Regan said he eagerly anticipates turning 60 next spring, welcoming the challenge of getting older like he has every other challenge in his nearly four-decade comedy career — with a laugh and a smile. 

“There’s the expression that comedy equals tragedy plus time, and that means tragedy very loosely,” Regan said. “It just means something awkward or weird or uncomfortable, and then some time passes, and you can look back on it and go, ‘Wow, that was funny.’ Now I’m trying to get to be so mentally healthy that I can avoid the time part. Enjoy it while it’s happening. I’m not quite there yet, but that’s my quest.”

When Regan first started out in stand-up comedy back in the early 1980s, he said everyone had the same quest: to get on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He reached that goal in 1991, and in the many years since, the comedy world has changed again and again, with Regan doing specials for the likes of HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central. He also made a staggering 28 appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman before the legendary late night host retired in 2015.

Endlessly touring, Regan has earned the respect and admiration of fellow comedians from Jerry Seinfeld to Chris Rock, and has been frequently described as a “comedian’s comedian” while still making his comedy easily relatable to anyone.

“I want everybody to like what I do,” Regan said. “But (for other comedians) to also tip their hat in a way is very rewarding. It feels like, ‘Huh, I must be doing something right.’ That’s as far as I’ll go with my self-compliment. So that’s what I want your readers to take away from this: ‘Hey, this guy’s not bad.’ The not-too-bad comedy of Brian Regan.”

All modesty aside, Regan recently signed on to do two specials with Netflix earlier this year. He filmed the first this past June in Denver, and the special is tentatively slated to arrive on the streaming service sometime in October.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years with the Internet exploding, there’s so many different quests available,” Regan said. “Some people want to do podcasts; some people want to get on TV shows; some people want to be a comedic actor. There’s no one blueprint for comedy. And as far as the stand-up itself, now Netflix is a big player. Gosh, I think five years ago it was a different animal, and now they’re like the 800-pound gorilla. … Plus, they give you a lot of creative freedom. So I like being in their world.”

Regan has always performed his own brand of comedy. Loosely observational, he tends to make the most mundane experiences hilarious, bringing a physicality and silliness to the stage that’s entirely his own.

And while he gladly performs in front of crowds of all ages and has become well-known for the lack of profanity in his material, he’s never really worn the “clean comic” tag very well.

“I like to challenge others,” he said, hinting at the pokes he’s made at the current political climate. “I don’t like to be a one-trick pony. I like to broaden my horizons and talk about different things, and my hope is always that audiences after a show will go, ‘That was surprising! I wasn’t expecting him to talk about that.’ So that includes maybe some political stuff. But at the same time, for me, it’s not a political rally. I’m not trying to get people to take sides. I just want to point out comedic points of view about certain things that hopefully both sides can laugh at. I like those jokes that at the end of it, you can laugh and still not necessarily know what side the person telling the joke is on.” 


Brian Regan

DeVos Performance Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

Sept. 9, 7 p.m. $42.50-$52.50, (616) 742-6500

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