Friday, October 24, 2014

Brian Regan: It's Just Him and a Microphone

Posted By on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 4:02 AM

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"Altruistic" is a word rarely -- if ever -- used to describe a standup comic, but it suits Brian Regan. In the 35 years he's been performing, wielding a microphone as his bullhorn, Regan does what only the most seasoned comics are capable of: making it look easy. He flourishes in the understanding and practice that the value of a joke is not simply a punch line, but in the shared experience of a comedic journey.

He's trekked back and forth across the United States and late-night talk shows more times than some comics could begin to imagine. His act stands up to the most acclaimed and praised in the business -- he is, after all, the poster boy for what the industry calls a "comic's comic." RFT Music spoke with Regan about what that means and dug into the depths of a joke.

(Brian Regan is performing a brand new 65-minute routine this Friday, October 24, at the Peabody Opera House. And he may even entertain with a few of the hits -- but only if he decides to.)

Kelsey McClure: Do you make a conscious decision to talk about what's current -- for example the World Series -- or not talk about it while you are onstage?

Brian Regan: Yes, talking about sports, especially that town's sports, is usually a dangerous move, because people love their sports, and they react in a loud way when their team is mentioned. In fact I do a thing about it sometimes, where it's like if you say "St. Louis Cardinals" onstage in St. Louis, then people are going to hoot and holler. It's like, "Hey, we like the St. Louis Cardinals!"

I say, "I like lunch," but when I hear the word "lunch" I don't just hoot and holler. Hey, I was thinking of having some lunch: "Whooooo. We're the cheese, We're the cheese on rye!" But that's how baseball fans or sports fans react when they hear sports or baseball -- they yell their favorite team at the top of their lungs. So I try to avoid it when I'm onstage if I can.

Why do you think that is? Do you think that standup comedy will ever have those die-hard fans that are just like, "Oh, he's going tell his joke about the crop dusting!"

Well, I do get where people will shout out a bit of mine, occasionally, but...

While you're onstage or just like in passing?

Both. Both. But usually onstage, and usually then people who come to my shows seem to kind of know that the first part of my show -- the first 65 minutes -- I just kind of do my most recent stuff. And then I usually come out and do a little five to ten minute encore and that's when people shout out older bits. I'm not going to do older bits in that context.

When you said "recent stuff," how often are you changing it up? You said a 65- minute set: Is that an entirely different 65 minutes from your last standup special, or is it something that evolves as you continue to tour?

It's ever-evolving. I mean, new stuff comes in and then old stuff, or older stuff, falls away. Over the course of a year or two, I don't know what the percentage is, but if people see me and the last time they saw me was a year and half or two years ago, I'd like to think that they're going to see.... At least, most of the stuff will probably be stuff they didn't see last time.

It usually takes about a year and half to two years to completely turn it over. I was doing a show one time, and I had my own little goal in my head that I was going to do nothing that I knew was recorded on anything. Nothing that was in a special or in a CD or anything like that. I did about a half an hour of virgin jokes, at least as far as anything that was recorded, and then I do one older joke as a transition to get into another new thing. I did the older bit and I hear a guy in the audience go, "Heard it."

Ouch.

Yeah. That's when you go, "Ah, OK. So it's 100 percent impossible to please everybody all the time."

Continue to page two for more.

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