So let’s dive right in—Toledo, Oh, have you performed here before?
I have performed in Toledo several times and I was thinking how interesting it is for me to dial you up on a 419 area code, because I went to college in Tiffin at Heidelberg College.
That is a classy establishment.
Yeah, so I’m familiar with the area. As far as Toledo, I’ve performed there 3-4 times over the last 10 years.
Why do you keep doing that to yourself?
[Laughs] I like performing everywhere, that’s what makes it interesting. I like performing in your sexier cities and then, uh, I like performing in Toledo. It’s real and very, uhhh, you know, it anchors your calendar so to speak.
You hit up Vegas and then you follow up with a city that was voted 3rd in the top ten worst places to live.
Oh no, really? At least your not #1, that’s something to celebrate.
Yeah, we keep it real. Do you have any fond memories coming through here?
Basically I used to use Toledo as an airport. You guys have a landing strip with, uhh [laughs] a baggage carousel, which counts I guess. So when I went to Tiffin, it was a weird place to get to. I used to fly into Cleveland, Toledo, sometimes Columbus. And, I’m dating myself here, but I think it was the blizzard of 78’ or something. I had to fly back into the blizzard, which had passed through already, but when I landed there were like 12 ft. snow banks. I’m not joking. But my college friends picked me up at the Toledo Airport and we had to drive back to Tiffin. And my friends hadn’t filled up the tank and we ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere between Toledo and Tiffin. We had to knock on some farmers door at like 1 in the morning and basically our pitch was, “If you don’t help us we’re going to die.”
So he had to help us, I don’t think he wanted to, I think he wanted to go back to bed, but if he didn’t we would have perished. So he was kind enough to put us in his truck, and drive us to Tiffin so we could live. The only reason I’m alive is because of some farmer between Toledo and Tiffin.
That’s actually the slogan of Toledo, “If you don’t help us, we are going to die.”
I’m sure you get this question a lot but I’m curious, why did you decide to go the clean route of comedy?
I always worked mostly clean anyway because I felt that was the stuff I wanted to talk about. I don’t make a value judgement on it, there are many comedians who work blue that I think are great. But for me I just like talking about everyday things. Some people turn on a XXX rated porn channel and find comedy, and I look at the directions on a box of Pop Tarts and find comedy. That’s the stuff that interests me comedically.
When I first started I had a handful of dirty jokes, and would drop a 4 letter word here and there. But it always felt like it didn’t fit with the rest of my stuff. So I just decided to go 100% clean and it’s been a decent path for me, it feels truthful for me.
Do you think it’s more difficult, putting together a set and having to avoid a large category of words and topics?
I’ve always grappled with that. It’s definitely harder when you’re first starting, because you’ve gotta play a lot of rough atmospheres. At least when I started, you’d have to do bars that have comedy 1 night a week, and face it working blue is an attention grabber. You’re onstage and somebody’s shooting pool in the background…
A football game on behind you.
Exactly, and if you’re throwing some F-words in there, people are going to go, “Hey, who’s this guy?” And, if you’re just talking about cleaner kinds of topics it might not be as interesting to them. I even remember George Carlin talking about throwing in dirty stuff as an attention grabber, so it definitely will get people to look at the stage. I think ultimately the comedian should be doing what he thinks is funny and not what the he thinks the audience thinks is funny.
Are there jokes you’ve come up with on darker topics that make you laugh, but now that you’re established don’t fit your persona?
Yeah, it’s not a huge problem for me. But there are times when I think of something that’s from the other side of the tracks. Stuff that’ll make my friends laugh off stage, but with the kind of audience that comes out to see me now, I have to be considerate. I play in theaters now where people can bring a 12 year old girl. I don’t want to say something that’s going to make a kid or their parent’s feel uncomfortable. As a courtesy, I don’t want people to feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve gotta get my kids out of here.”
I’ve been interviewing a lot of comics recently, and it seems the two main reasons for them getting into stand up has either been laziness or mental illness. Do you gravitate to either of those reasons, and if so why?
The laziness thing, I’m one of those biorhythm people—I’m either incredibly lazy or incredibly organized and banging on all cylinders getting stuff done. The hours for comedy certainly are something that makes people gravitate to it. I realized that in college, my nickname was Rip, for Rip Van Winkle. I’d miss all my classes. And I remember going to see a comedian at our college and his show started at 8 pm. I was sitting in the audience at 7:30 thinking, “I think I could do this. I think I could get up by 8pm.” So it was one of the reasons I got into comedy, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to wake up for anything else.
If you weren’t doing comedy what do you think you’d be doing?
I’d like to think I’d be lucky enough to be doing something creative. When I was in college, I had a cartoon strip, and this humorous advice column. I tried to get my comic strip syndicated, I sent it to some syndication company, and they sent back a rejection letter. I hadn’t learned the concept of tenacity. I just said, “Welp I’ll never be a cartoonist in this lifetime. These people said no.”
Just one and done?
[Laughs] It’s like going on an audition, “ They didn’t like me. Well I’m not going to be an actor.”
Have you ever thought about revisiting that?
I tried to revive it after I’d been doing stand up for a while, I moved to New York City, and a friend of mine who booked comedy clubs was also in on this local paper kind of thing. So I did it for about 6 months or something, but you get back to that lazy thing. And suddenly I’m trying to meet these deadlines—it was just hard for me. Especially when you’re living in the world of the stand up and you can wake up at 8pm! So I just left that in the dust.
I recently saw you in Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee web series, can you tell me anything about that experience?
It was a lot of fun. I was in the first run of shows, before any of them were on the internet, so I didn’t have a frame of reference for what to expect. He called me up, and it was an honor, to have Jerry Seinfeld think enough of me to have me amongst that first group of comedians. I was thrilled and it meant a lot to me. It happened out in L.A. and they don’t pre-interview, I guess that’s what’s fun about it. It’s not like a T.V. taping where everything is pre-done and conversations are explored ahead of time. He just truly wanted it to be a conversation between two comedians. We taped for about 4 hours and it got edited down to what ends up being the final result.
Have you ever thought about putting your own show together? Because you’re pretty much strictly a stand-up from my understanding. Have you ever worked on writing a show, movie, or book?
No, not for anybody else’s show. I’d love to do my own, if the powers that be out there were kind enough to say, “Hey man, can we put your comedy on TV.” But as far as writing for anybody else, that’s not my cup of tea.
There is some confusion out there though. There’s a writer named Brian Regan who writes comedy movies, 102 Dalmatians…
So really quality stuff.
Well that’s not me, but there’s a couple things on the internet that describe me and then they’ll start talking about me getting into movie writing. Nothing against that movie or that writer, but it’s just a different thing altogether.
So when you write do you work solo, or with a writing partner, and how do you vet material for the shows while on the road? Do you try something new every night?
Well the first part of the question, I write things by myself. That’s the fun of it. It’s not just the laugh that feels good, it’s knowing that you came up with something in your head and the audience are agreeing with you that they think something is funny. It’s like an electric experience. So conveying something that somebody else thought of doesn’t jazz me in any way.
And, I uhh, forgot the second part of the question. Was it about how handsome I am? Right?
Well that’s hard, because on stage I can tell women are just looking at me, and I’m like, “Listen I’m a performer, I’m an artist. Yes, I’m handsome but please, we’re here for the comedy tonight.” [Laughs]
[Laughs] Do you think of yourself as an artist? A lot of comics shy away from saying that because they feel it is pretentious.
I see both sides, but I like to think it’s an art form. But it sounds like you’re patting yourself on the back if you embrace it. Like, “look at me, I belong in The Louvre.” But there is definitely an artistic aspect to it, it’s not unlike music. You’re choosing words, choosing beats, you’re choosing things to make a melodic experience in music, and comedy has that. There are laughs involved as well, but there is something to it that is very interesting and artistic.
Is there anything you want to impress upon the audience of what to expect in your upcoming show?
Uhhhh… No. I think we got it covered man, I’m coming and I’ll be doing a handful of funny things. [Laughs] I was doing an interview one time with Opie and Anthony these radio guys.
They asked me to describe my show, and I didn’t want to pat myself on the back. So I said, “I dunno, I’m adequate.” [Laughs] And, they’re like, “Are you trying to sell tickets?”
[Laughs] That’s going to be the title of this article, “Brian Regan, Adequate Comedy.”
That’s fine. That’s all I claim to bring to town—some adequate comedy.
Ladies and gentleman, the C+ of comedy, Brian Regan.
Exactly, no one’s gonna walk out and go, “Hey I don’t think that was adequate enough.” [Laughs]
Well, before I let you go, can I “Inside the Actors Studio” you?
As a clean comic, what is your favorite dirty word?
Uhhhhhhhhhh… What would I say if I banged my pinkie on the coffee table in the middle of the night? That would probably be the most organic. I’m gonna throw god in there, and it would be God-fucking-damnit.
There we go.
That’s a lot of harsh things thrown into one big ball of strangeness.
I love it. It’s about that time though. But before I sat down here I asked a lot of people what to ask you and they told me, “I dunno, just make sure to end with ‘take luck,’ and after reading other interviews, I realized that has to be the most played out way to say goodbye to you.
[Laughs] Phew, well I’m glad you opted to avoid it. It would have been cool either way, but thanks for not.
Thank you and have a happy holiday.
My pleasure, you too.
Brian will be performing at The Stranahan Theater
Thursday, January 9, doors at 7:30 PM Tickets available stranahantheater.org