YOUR FUNNY FRIEND IS ONE THING. A professional comedian is something else entirely. Folio, specifically, publisher John Phillips, recently had the pleasure to sit down (via Zoom) with one of the world’s most popular comedians, Brian Regan, in advance of his Jan. 23 performance at Florida Theatre.
A native of Miami, Regan has been a touring and television comedian since the 1980s. Like most successful comics, he’s done the late night talk show circuit—from Johnny Carson to Jimmy Fallon. He’s released six CDs/DVDs, opened for Jerry Seinfeld and won Funniest Male Stand-up Comic at the American Comedy Awards. His stand-up specials have aired on Comedy Central, Showtime and Netflix. And his sketch/stand-up series Stand Up and Away! With Brian Regan currently airs on Netflix with Seinfeld as executive producer.
On stage and screen, Regan is hysterically funny. His facial expressions and gestures alone are worth the price of admission. But off stage, his demeanor, at times, can be subdued and reflective.
Take, for example, his response to our question: “Who is Brian Regan?”
He thought for a moment and said, “This is going to be a philosophical answer, but don’t we spend our lifetime trying to figure out who we are? I think I am a good person. I care about the world. I want the world to care about me. And I see some funny things out there and want to share them with my fellow human beings.”
This desire to relate to audiences is evident in his style of comedy. A master of observational humor, Regan has the ability to hone in on human idiosyncrasies audiences might not even realize they have until he points them out (more on that in a moment). And though he admits he writes for an adult audience, his act is free from profanity or explicit jokes. My 8-year-old-son Bennett and I, for example, both appreciate his humor on Stand Up and Away! For me personally, being able share a laugh with your child is a true bonding experience.
Regan, too, is a loving father who openly admits his dad jokes are especially lame. “That’s part of the comfort of being off stage. The jokes you come up with don’t have to rise to a certain level of quality,” he said, “so, off stage I just really love bad jokes and bad puns. My kids have to endure me sharing ridiculously bad humor with them. We laugh at how eyerolling [the jokes] are.”
Further illustrating his point, he solemnly quoted the late, great Robin Williams about things his own children told him: “Daddy, you don’t need to be funny around us. All you have to be is Daddy” to which Regan added, “You can be a comedian to the world, but at home, Daddy is more important.”
Having a good sense of humor is powerful, Regan said, reflecting on an experience he had decades ago when he encountered a group of children on a subway car in New York City. One of the kids was making his friends repeatedly and hysterically laugh, and Regan remembered wondering, “Does that kid have any idea how much power he has? It’s a big thing to make people laugh. You are altering people’s emotions. You might even be changing how people think
about something.” He said he still wonders what happened to that young man, “Is he a comedian? Is he a leader?”
Just being funny, however, isn’t enough to make it as a stand-up comic. As the conversation turned to the science of comedy, Regan admitted a performance requires a Herculean amount of effort. As he once told fellow comic Joe Rogan, “People think of comedy asknocking down the pins, but the hardest part is setting up the pins. Part of the artform is coming out to nothing, setting up somethingand then hitting the punchline to make people laugh.”
Regan compares crafting a good joke to acting out “tiny little plays” that last a minute or two. “It’s a constant process. Night to night, you are working on tweaking words and beats, whether to leave an adjective in or whether to take it out, whether to say something before you say another thing,” he said. “Somebody might hear a joke and then they will hear the same joke six months later and think, ‘Oh, that’s the same joke that I heard six months ago.’ They have no idea how much that joke has evolved in my mind: ‘What do you mean? I used to saythe adjective six months ago, and now I don’t say the adjective. So, it’s a whole different joke.’ I love those Eureka moments of making a joke 1% better.”
One of Regan’s most quoted bits started in the 1990s and is the perfect example of his finely-tuned observational skills and self-deprecating delivery. The premise is that moment of human frailty when we say something out of habit, but it awkwardly doesn’t fit the circumstances.
From the server at the restaurant wishing him a pleasant meal as it is placed in front of him to a gate agent saying “Have a nice flight” as he boards an airplane, Regan responds instinctively with an immediate “You, too!” He then chides himself for not knowing how to use the “‘You, too!’” phrase. All these years later, people still say “You, too!” and “Take luck!” (another hilarious part of the joke) to him regularly—except for that one guy on the elevator.
Regan described a recent encounter with a fan who took the premise to another level. Someone recognized him on an elevator and said, “Wait, you are the ‘And you,’ guy!” Regan said he didn’t want to correct him because he was with friends—and it was just a quick encounter. So as the man got off the elevator, he turned around and started screaming at Regan, “And you ... And you!” Regan thought, “I am the only guy who knows what he’s talking about, and I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
From the beginning to the end of our time together, Regan’s description of himself remained true: a good person who sees funny things and wants to share them with others. Obviously, COVID-19 has hindered his ability to do that in 2020, but he’s anxious to safely adapt and return to making people laugh.”
“Laughter can still take place even under these challenging circumstances, Regan said, “ [and] needs to take place now more than ever.
Brian Regan appears Jan. 23 at the newly renovated Florida Theatre. The audience will be socially distanced, and masks will be required throughout the show. Regan will bring the laughter.