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Playing the Rube(s)

Brian Regan returns to Florida, a conquering hero

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It sounds like a cliché, and it is a cliché, but it is nonetheless true: Brian Regan is one of the funniest men walking the Earth today. Vanity Fair called him “the funniest stand-up alive.” Having grown up in Miami, the comedian has performed in Jacksonville more times than he can count. He’ll be here again July 28, to play The Florida Theatre.

In my opinion, the man has no peer. Don’t believe me? Ask Jerry Seinfeld. The comedy kingpin has often leveraged his considerable star power on behalf of his old friend. The two met before Seinfeld's big television breakthrough, when Jerry was just a hotshot standup comedian.

“Jerry Seinfeld has been incredibly kind to me over the years,” Regan told Folio Weekly. “We met before his sitcom. I opened for him a number of times.”

Seinfeld produced Regan’s instant classic 2017 Netflix special Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, as well as Stand Up And Away!, a new standup-slash-sketch-comedy series that debuted last December. Regan was also an early guest (third to be exact) on Seinfeld’s acclaimed web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. For many casual fans of the form, Regan's episode (“A Monkey and a Lava Lamp”) was their introduction to his eminently affable personal style. That appearance kicked off a whole new phase of Regan's career.

All this is in keeping with Entertainment Weekly’s apt assessment that Regan is “your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian.” He has an ambling, hyperkinetic style, heavy on funny voices that emphasize the goofball nature of his comedy, as well as a weird physical stance on stage that quickly became one of his trademarks.

“I’m not a good joke-teller,” Regan wrote, on location in Vancouver, where he was filming the third season of his Audience Network series Loudermilk. “I know that sounds weird, but I’ve never been good at telling normal jokes.”

Regan, who turned 61 last month, first caught the comedy bug has as an undergrad at Ohio’s Heidelberg College. He spent the ensuing four decades touring the world in pursuit of his craft, starting at open-mic nights in small clubs and gradually moving up into the big rooms, big clubs, theaters and even the occasional stadium. He headlined Gator Growl in the early ‘90s—a far cry from his smallest audience ever, which was exactly one person at The Comic Strip in Ft. Lauderdale in the late ‘80s.

“Not sure how many people fit in that stadium,” he said, “but I think it was around 70,000. I always wondered if the one guy from my smallest crowd was also in the biggest crowd at Gator Growl.”

From those humble beginnings, Regan has progressed steadily into some of the most prestigious venues in the world, working Leicester Square Theatre in London earlier this year, as well as debuting at the Kennedy Center in New York. He’s also worked the stages of Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall, where his 2015 special became the first standup show ever broadcast live on Comedy Central. He's learned how to read a room.

“Crowds are interesting,” he mused. “Usually you can guess right as to whether or not they’ll be good. But often, they can surprise you.”

Regan has lived in Las Vegas for the last few years. He’s developed a solid social media game, which is fundamental for anyone in the performing arts these days. His Twitter feed has more than 200,000 followers, and it’s highlighted by his #ReganRamblings series, in which he offers capsule riffs on all manner of random topics. Regan has worked clean for his entire career, which many pros (including Seinfeld) contend is actually much more challenging than leaning on profanity, scat and cheap political pops.

“There isn’t much pressure by others to change how I do my comedy,” he said. “I like working the way I do. It’s fun. I enjoy the challenge of it.”

His style and his material would have worked easily in pretty much any scene or any era in the genre’s 100-plus year history; it will continue to work for the rest of his life, and so will he. Despite having already reached the summit of his industry, he’s still a regular guy who never takes anything for granted, least of all success. “I am still working on being confident,” he added. “I’m not even confident that was a good answer.”

Oh, it’s a great answer. Everything Brian Regan does is great.

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