Friday, Oct. 26 — Comedian Brian Regan may have started as a struggling club comic back in the early ‘80s, but like many other successful funnymen, he hustled hard. Soon enough, Regan moved on to late-night TV appearances and performing around 100 nights a year at large theaters across the map.
He performs his clean-cut brand of wit on Sunday at the Wharton Center. Regan recently chatted with City Pulse over the phone from his home in Las Vegas.
Your style of comedy doesn’t get too raunchy. Was that something you did on purpose?
“I’ve always kind of naturally worked that way. I just tend to think about everyday human experiences. Comedically I don’t gravitate towards a certain direction. When I first started I had a handful of things that were blue or dirty, but it was always a very small percentage of my act. Because I can be kind of anal, I decided to go 100 percent clean as opposed to 95 percent clean.”
Are you a fan of that type of comedy, like Louis CK?
“Sure. I mean, I like all kinds of comedy. I like comedians who are doing things that are natural for them, as long as it’s organic to the comedian. Look at Richard Pryor: He might be the best comedian who ever lived. He worked blue. I guess what I tend to cringe at is when I feel somebody’s pushing buttons on purpose just because they know the audience will laugh as opposed to it being something they feel like saying.”
Do you think stand-up comedians still have the hard living and drinking stigma?
“I don’t know. I’m kind of out of that loop. One of the downsides of playing theaters is that you’re not really hanging out in the comedy clubs with other comedians as much, so I miss that camaraderie. I feel like an old guy: ‘I don’t know what the young folk are doing, but they like their long hair and the rock music.’”
Back in your early days, did you do go on Letterman or Conan O’Brien first?
“I did Letterman before I did Conan, but prior to that I was able to do the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson about a year before he retired. That was a big deal for me. So I had done a handful of things before Letterman and Conan came on the scene. Letterman right now is the biggest feather in my cap.”
Did you get to talk to Johnny Carson?
“No. I had the one experience. It was otherworldly, in a good way. I was able to do the show — it was literally a dream come true. I did the stand-up. It was a fluke: a guest couldn’t show up so they let me, after the stand-up, do some additional time on the panel. Afterwards I was standing with my manager backstage in this surreal fog and Johnny Carson himself walked by. He stopped and shook my hand and said, ‘Nice shot,’ and just kept on walking. I was like, ‘Johnny Carson just talked to me!’”
How about Letterman? Ever chat with him?
“I’m honored that they have me on the show quite often. I had my 25th appearance on there about a month ago. He’s not the type of person that socializes with the guests other than during the show. I’ve seen him backstage a couple of times just walking past with his producers. I’ve heard that he likes what I do. I’ve heard from the writers on his staff and from other people on the show that he likes my stand-up. I can hear him laugh behind me when I’m doing my stand-up and it means the world to me that somebody like that likes what I do.”
Brian Regan Live in Concert
Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall, Michigan State University