Comedian Brian Regan on Deconstructing Jokes (and SpongeBob SquarePants)

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click to enlarge POP TARTS! - Photo by Evans Ward
Photo by Evans Ward
In the fine tradition of American comics (such as Bill Cosby) whose stuff isn't raunchy, but somehow gets people heaving with mirth, we give you Brian Regan. He's been selling out theaters for years -- notably, without the help of Saturday Night Live, his own TV show or a comedy blockbuster. He'll be at the Pageant for two back-to-back shows on Saturday.

Daily RFT: How much of Saturday's show will be new, and how much are you pulling from the vault (for example, "Pop Tarts")?

Brian Regan: I've fallen into a formula that seems to work. I go onstage and I do an hour that is as new as it can be. Then I go back out at the end for ten minutes and do some older stuff -- people might shout out some older bits they'd like to hear. And I like the fact that there's a clear delineation between the old and the new.

Are you changing up the bits night to night?

Yes and no. I've come to the conclusion that a comedy show, at least the way I do it, is sort of like an accordion.
You go through a period where you keep pulling it out and stretching it out and trying to ad-lib and put funny stuff in there, and go off on tangents -- because that's how you learn and grow -- and you get it to where it's a little too loose, the thing can't make a reentry, it's not bolted together tightly enough. So you squeeze it all together and try to make it as tight as you can for a while. And both processes are fun.

How does the writing process work for you?

Maybe at some point I'll be able to sit down and write stuff, but that's never been how I've been able to come up with things. I've learned that for me, I just kind of go through the day the way I'd normally go through the day - I have kids, I watch TV, I read, I travel - I just do what I would normally do and things jump up and down and say hey man, 'I'm kind of funny, can I be in your show?' I feel like I'm picking a phys-ed basketball team, and sometimes I'll pick the chubby kid in back just so he can play.

Do you work your stuff out on tour, on the big stage, or do you try stuff at smaller clubs?

I do it on the big stage. When I was in comedy clubs, you'd throw in newer stuff in a third show Saturday, or on a Sunday crowd. But when I started doing the venues I'm in now, I said myself, 'Look, if I wanna keep growing I gotta figure out how way to throw stuff in.'

I'm a little bit smarter about bookending  -- I make sure I'm coming out of something strong and going into something strong, if I'm trying out something new. But I have to force myself. Because if I don't keep throwing new things in, I'm gonna get bored, and the audience is going to sense that, and they're gonna get bored.

Do you feel in pressure, like if you're recognized at an airport, to be the funny guy?

If people don't know who I am or what I do, I never offer up that information. Because I usually don't care for the conversation that takes place from that point forward. It's funny, when you tell people you're a comedian, they physically jerk their neck back, it's like a 'HENHHH?' If you had a ruler, you could measure people's heads going back three inches. 'HENHH? HENHH?' Yeah, I'm from Neptune! I'm a crazy outer-space creature! That's the way they look at you, like there's something wrong with you.

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