Many in show business pride themselves as being multi-hyphenates: they’re not just actors, they’re actor-singer-writer-producer-superhero-billionare-philanthropists. And while Brian Regan may possess many skills to show, he is 100 percent a stand-up comedian.
And if you’ve caught him after a good 25+ years in the public eye, you know he’s a damn good one.
Whether headlining his own Netflix special, or popping by for a quick five-minute spot on Letterman or Fallon, Regan puts his life on display with wit to spare. Now, luckily, Houston is getting a taste as the comic intends to fill Revention Music Center’s 2,000 odd-seats and generate some earth-rocking laughter. Or, as the comic himself deadpans: a big room like Revention is “best for my massive EGO!”
The now 60-year-old Floridian reflects on consuming stand-up, coming of age during a golden era of stand-up on late night. “I was always a fan of comedy before it was even on my radar that I could even do it myself. I never used to listen to records, but I used to watch it on TV a lot. I used to watch the comedians on TV. When Steve Martin came on the scene, that was a big one for me. Steve Martin had this bizarre point of view that was screamingly funny to me, you know? I really enjoyed what he did. But even then, I didn’t think of being a comedian, you know? I just knew that I enjoyed comedy. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started hitting on the notion that I wonder if I could do that, you know?”
While he didn’t grow up listening to comedy, a great number of Regan’s early fans likely did. His first released hour was an audio-only release in 1997, entitled Brian Regan Live! – a well-worn favorite shared in many digital comedy circles before the advent of YouTube. But looking back, the album makes Regan laugh in a way you might not suspect. “There is a visual component to it, but somehow people are able to fill in the blanks,” he states.
“The first hour that I released was a CD and you know, there’s some physical comedy on there even though it's audio. Like, I have a joke about getting stuck in a spider web, where I act it out. And I try to describe it, as best I can while I’m doing it, because I knew it was a CD. But sometimes when I listen to it, like when it comes up on Sirius XM and I furiously trying to explain! You embellish for the medium to a degree. There are certain bits in that first album in particular where I’m adding some language just to push the visual a bit.”
Regan is a bit a of a tinkerer, known for willing his material to be perfect and not forcing himself to record a special every 12 months – though his latest Nunchucks and Flamethrowers dropped on Netflix just last year. He owes a bit of this perfectionist nature to his habit of recording every stand-up set he does.
“I audio record every show,” he shares, a bit hesitantly. “I don’t have to listen to every one, but I know that if I did something different better, I’ll try to find that bit and see how I said that last night that worked a little bit better than the time before. Sometimes it truly is a matter of moving a word here or a there, and that’s one thing I find fascinating about comedy is how just the slightest little change can make something better, you know?
"You’re always trying to walk the tightrope. Sometimes, you want to get that specific way of saying the words that conveys it in just the right way. You don’t want to have too much language in there, and you don’t want to have too little language in there. And its always funny when someone will come up to you and say: Yeah, you did that joke six months ago. And I feel like saying, that joke from six months ago has NOTHING to do with this. You have no idea what’s its been through!”
Despite so many tours of duty hitting every comedy club from sea to shining sea, Regan has maintained his zeal for the gig. Like a marriage, he seems to keep his relationship with the audience a little spicy. “I don’t like to do it the same way every night or it just gets boring, you know?” he says.
“I have a routine about going to the emergency room that is basically true. You alter things a little bit just to make it better, but I like to do a kind of act where every third joke is absurd. I don’t want audiences to get ‘wait line fever’, where they’re going: Yeah, I get it, he’s going to be talking about his life. I like that every once in a while you throw a curve ball in there and it sounds like I’m gonna say something real and its absurd territory. I like to make it confusing like that. It’s more interesting for me, but it also keeps audiences more engaged when they have to pay attention.
"I like to come up with an idea, try it on stage and if there’s something there, I like that process of working with it night after night and getting it to a certain point to where this is pretty tight and concise and I like it. But then, the fact that you get it to that point… I’m fortunate enough to be able to do special and stuff like that. And to include a joke like that in a special or something – then I gotta move away from it! It’s like raising your children, you know? It’s sort of like that with your jokes. You get em pretty darn good and then you go, well I’m not gonna do ‘em anymore.”
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Even with a plate full of stand-up dates, Regan has made a point to try his hand at a few entertainment ventures beyond the microphone. He’s got the recurring role of Mugsy on the (by his own admission) hard-to-find sitcom Loudermilk, created by Green Book director Peter Farrelly. “He saw me do stand-up, and asked me if I wanted to be in this show of he was doing. It was like weird to me. You know, I was flattered. But next thing you know I know I’m just in this thing! The show itself is very good. It’s on an obscure network, so many people haven’t seen it yet. Its on Direct TV’s Audience Network, but little by little its getting some traction. Everyone who does see it has good things to say.
Beyond Loudermilk, Regan also recently signed a pact with Netflix to host a sketch series alongside Jerry Seinfeld entitled Stand-Up and Away – which will drop four episodes on Christmas Eve. On the subject of getting more time behind the camera, Regan is humble. “The acting side of the tracks has been a lot of fun for me. I’ve been a stand up basically my whole career, so now I get to do something different. I’m enjoying it.”
Brian Regan is set to play the Revention Music Center at 520 Texas at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 7. For more information, visit reventionmusiccenter.com or call 713-230-1600. $65-205