BWW Interviews: Comedian Brian Regan Brings Stand-up Comedy to Majestic Theatre in San Antonio
Brian Regan is a comedian who has been performing since the 1980s. He first got the bug to do comedy while in college at Heidelberg College in Ohio. He was majoring in Communication and Theatre Arts. When he heard the audiences' reaction to his comedic lines in a play he was in, Brian was hooked. Ever since then, Brian has been working at refining his talent and entertaining audiences all over. He continues to draw sell-out crowds and a diverse audience. His comedy is the kind that many can relate to and you wouldn't be afraid to repeat to your boss or your children. Brian recently shared with me some of his memories of his career as well as his enthusiasm for comedy.
Many comedians describe themselves as the family/class clown, etc. Was comedy always present in your life? What was the first time you performed onstage? Tell us about it.
Yes, comedy was always present in my house. My mom and my dad are funny. They had 8 children and are all funny; I being one of them. Comedy at the beginning, at least the way I tried it, had a fictional quality to it. It was weird because I'd be onstage in front of all my friends and saying, "So, I'm on a bus this morning…" And they're like, "No you weren't." And I'm like, "No, no, no, I know I really wasn't but just kind of pretend I was." "Well, it's kinda hard for us to do that." I thought, "Wow, I need to try this in front of strangers."
You have 2 children right? How old are they now?
My boy is 13 and my girl is 8.
What do they think about Dad doing this all the time?
I think they're proud of their Daddy. It makes me feel really cool. I take them with me quite often when I travel on my road gigs. They hang around backstage. They go from town to town with me. Not all the time, but once every couple of months I take them on a road weekend with me. I think it's pretty cool and I like to think they think it's pretty cool too.
Do you try out new material on them?
I do. Not so much to see whether or not it's something I'm going to try out onstage, but whenever you think of something new, you want to bounce it off the people who are closest to you and that often times in my kids. I'll just say it and they obviously have the kid perspective on things. I don't use whether or not they think it's funny as a deciding factor but it's just fun to bounce things off them.
Your shows are really family friendly. Everyone can attend. Children attend, grandmas and grandpas attend; is there a reason you choose to keep your show that way?
To me it's just fun performing the way I do. It wasn't for any reason other than I get a kick out of seeing if I can make people laugh out of everyday kind of topics. It just happens to be clean. There are comedians out there who are blue or dirty who I think are great. They're doing their thing, I'm doing my thing. What's funny, you mentioned earlier about the different people that come to the shows. I think that because it's clean, some people feel comfortable bringing younger people or even older people. I was performing somewhere and a family came backstage that included their 80 something year old grandmother. She was very sweet. And she said to me, "So how long have you been in Vaudeville?" "Since 1920, I guess." Vaudeville, that was hysterical.
Who most inspires you?
There are many comedians out there who are doing fun, interesting things. I tend to like people who are unique, forging their own paths. Maria Bamford is a comedian who does very interesting quirky characters; she's funny to me. Bill Burr; a comedian out of Boston he does…not rough…but he can throw some 4 letter words in there but he's got an interesting perspective on things and I think he's somebody who's going to be pretty big. I like Jerry Seinfeld for how he gets a lot of comedy out of very simple everyday things. I've always liked that. George Carlin, who's no longer with us, I admired his ability to write. He kept pumping out material. I liked him for his ability to keep cranking out new stuff.
You had an opportunity to be on the Johnny Carson show? What do you remember about that experience?
That expression dream come true gets thrown around a lot but in that case it was true. At the time, every comedian's dream was to be on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I was fortunate enough to get on there about a year before he retired. There are a lot of things I remember about that. One thing in particular was standing behind the curtain and hearing him introduce me. It's other worldly. It's surreal. You're listening to a man that you have been listening to ever since you were little staying up late and he's talking about me; he's introducing me. It's dreamlike. You're thinking it's some kind of bizarre dream. And he introduced me and the curtain opened and I couldn't believe I was walking out onto the stage. You're there to do stand-up but you're also experiencing the whole thing while it's happening. There's a lot of stuff going on in your head during those 5 minutes.
What are some other stand-out moments in your career?
I'm fortunate to have a regular thing on the Late Show with David Letterman; soon I'll be doing my 25th appearance. I take a lot of pride in the fact that they like me enough to keep having me come back. That means a lot to me. Being able to perform around the country still doesn't get old. Every couple of weeks I'm going to the airport and flying to all parts of the country. Being able to do stand-up for a living is pretty darn cool.
I know you have been doing theatres for a while now, what made you decide to transition from Comedy Clubs to theatre? Do you like it better?
In a way I like it better because people are 100% focused in a theatre but I still like the Comedy Clubs. In fact I'm doing a handful this summer to re-experience that. It's been about 7 years since I've performed in Comedy Clubs. I'm enjoying again the intimacy of that. Both experiences are fun in different ways.
Since this is Broadway World, I have to ask, have you been to Broadway plays?
I saw Beauty and the Beast when Donny Osmondwas playing Gaston. That was amazing because I found out that he knew who I was and invited me to see him perform. It was so bizarre to be sitting in a Broadway theatre and think I couldn't believe that I was there and that Donny invited me and wanted me to come backstage. It was a blast.
Do you think you will see more Broadway plays if the opportunity avails?
My major in college was Communication and Theatre Arts. I was in a handful of plays when I was in college. I liked that world. It was one of my first experiences being onstage as an actor. I feel weird even calling myself an actor. I was more of a student who was in a play every now and again. I loved the experience and I'd like to be able to do more of it.
What are some shows you did when you were in college?
I was in Dracula. I played Mr. Butterworth who was the comic relief role. It was one of my first times feeling that bug of getting laughs. I didn't have a big role. I went out and did my handful of lines and for whatever reason it just really seemed to connect. I remember thinking that it was wonderfully fun. I also played in King Lear. I played one of his sons. I played football in the first semester of each year and I was in plays the second semester each year. These things are 2 completely disparate worlds and it was weird because guys on the football team had no idea I was in the theatre and people in the theatre department had no idea I played football. I liked having my feet in 2 distinctly different worlds.
If you had to give this all up tomorrow, what would you do?
Hopefully it would be something creative. When I was in college I had a cartoon strip and a humorous advice column. I remember trying to get my cartoon strip syndicated. I think I sent examples of my cartoon to one syndication company. They sent me a rejection letter and I wasn't experienced enough back then to realize that you don't just give up. I figured that was all, I couldn't be a cartoonist, here's the rejection letter. Maybe I would go back into cartoons or make videos or something, but I would think it would have to be creative because that's what interests me.
Any advice for someone wanting to be a stand-up comedian?
You need to have passion. That's true for a lot of things you want to get into. It's not an easy road especially at the beginning. It takes a while to get good so you have to endure a lot of bad shows and bad nights. If you're not willing to go through that, you probably shouldn't get into the business. But if you have the passion and are willing to ride out the ride both the ups and downs, it can be thrilling.
Brian Regan will be appearing at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio, Texas on August 18, 2012. Tickets are available by going to their website.
Photo credit: Brian Friedman