"I'm very fortunate that I've gotten to a level where I'm playing venues where people are coming to see my show," says goofball comedian Brian Regan. He sounds genuinely appreciative of his growing fan base. "It's not like they're going, 'Hey, let's buy a ticket and walk into this theatre and see what happens. So I have my foot in the door, so to speak. As long as I give them stuff from my comedic mind, I think I can keep them entertained."
The comedian grew up in Miami, idolizing the likes of Johnny Carson, The Smothers Brothers, Steve Martin, and Jonathan Winters. He moved to New York City in the late-'80s and won $10,000 in the "K-Rock/Miller Lite Funniest Person in New York" contest in 1988. Through the '90s, he worked MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour, Pat Sajak's and Arsenio Hall's talk shows, and, eventually, appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Through prolific writing and touring, Regan gradually ascended from comedy club circuit to theatres without the exposure of his own hit TV show or film. He hit the road earlier this summer, performing a series of gigs deemed "Brian Regan In Concert: A Comedy Central Live Event" at over 40 cities nationwide — including a stop in North Charleston this Saturday evening.
An unusual stand-out among contemporary stand-up comedians, Regan's smart jokes are almost totally devoid of filthy language or vulgar subject matter. His doofus style fits his relatively clean stand-up material, much of which is as sharp and good-natured as anything Seinfeld, DeGeneres, or Cosby ever did.
"I try to be careful and have things be organic — things that happen to me and things that interest me," he says. "I do work in a way that ends up coming out clean. Looking back, when I was younger, most of my material was clean with an occasional blue joke here or there. After a while, I thought, I'm already 95 percent clean, why not go all the way? It ended up being a pretty decent move for me.
"It's interesting what people define as clean," he adds. "I remember watching a couple of comedians in Florida, both of whom off-stage said they were working clean. One guy's material was pretty much G-rated, but he was using the F-word as an adjective all over the place. The other guys' material was full of sexual references and that sort of thing, but he never cursed once! So, I guess clean is in the mind of the beholder [laughs]."
Brian Regan: Standing Up, a one-hour, original stand-up special, was taped in April at the Barclay Theater in Irvine, Calif. and debuted on Comedy Central in June. It will be released on DVD this fall.
"I put a lot of work into that performance because there are commercial breaks on Comedy Central, and I wanted each segment to have a different subject between the commercial breaks and stand on their own. Every one of them had different lengths of time. I spent two months, every night, timing bits and chunks to try and get it perfectly. In addition to the comedy aspect of it, there are other things on my mind as a performer while it's being taped. It's definitely more challenging doing a quick thing on a late-night show. To go out and do five minutes in front of a studio and TV audience. They're not exactly there to see me — they're there to see the host and the major star guest. I'm just the comedian at the end [laughs]. It's hard to get there and establish yourself — to start doing jokes and establishing your point of view. Usually, the first joke is like a foul ball; you haven't struck out, but haven't quite connected. Hopefully, by the third joke, they're along for the ride."