For decades Brian Regan has been one of the hardest-working comedians in stand-up. In a business where a comedian's gravitas has been tied to TV and film credits, Regan has built his loyal theater audiences through relentless touring and undeniable jokecraft. However, the comedian is not resting on his reputation, but actively evolving his act and career in ways that are surprising his fans — and himself. Regan spoke with New Times about his new shift in material, his recent live special, and politics.
New Times: Thanks for speaking with us. We're getting ready for your return home to Miami.
Brian Regan: Yeah it's exciting for me. I've never been in [the Knight Center]. I don't get to Miami as often as my normal rotation because it's a big to-do. I've got a lot of friends coming out. It's great.
What makes it a big to-do?
It's always challenging for someone to perform in their hometown because, in a way, it's kind of like throwing a wedding. There's a lot of things in addition to the show. There are many times I come to Miami under the radar and slip in to see my friends but as far as doing shows, every five years seems about right to me.
You just recorded your first live special, also the first live special on Comedy Central. How do you feel that went, any impressions or lessons learned?
It was pretty intense. Being live, if I do a five minute spot on Letterman or Fallon, that's an intense experience. You're just lasered in on your five minutes. Well, this is an hour — and it's live. So I was lasered in for an hour straight. It's super intense concentration because you're trying to nail every word and nail every moment. You know it's impossible to be perfect. I had a couple of moments here or there where I kind of goofed up a little bit, but I don't think the audience knew. If you did goof up, that's what you'd hear about. People like the good stuff but people love the bad stuff.
The live special, that's a hell of a height. After you did that, did you feel like you wanted to take a fat nap or stand-up week off?
It was Saturday night and I slept the next day until about 5 p.m., then I got up and I ordered a large Ray's sausage and pepperoni pizza. You know, I was trying to lose weight and look as good as I could for the special. Three months of dieting and treadmills. That Sunday after was something to behold.
In the special itself there was more political stuff and other topics that maybe people aren't used to hearing from you.
Right, that's true. In fact even since the special I'm doing more of that kind of stuff. Once I do a special I start moving away from that material. I think any performer – you need to grow, man. I like to always be talking about what I'm interested in, I don't want to just do the same kind of stuff over and over again. I think the kind of stuff I'm doing now would be the familiar kind of material but I'm also throwing some stuff in that I think some people would raise their eyebrows over and say “Huh! I didn't expect a joke about gun legislation.”
So since you're feeling more political in your act, are you interested in the current race?
Sure, sure. It's tricky for my kind of comedy to get too specific about the thing, you know? I love political comedy but if you go that route, you're factioning off your audience sometimes. You can cut your audience in half with each joke. Say I like this political party and you cut your audience in half, and I prefer this gender, and you just keeping cutting your audience in half until you got two people left who are like “We're still with ya!”
I see the risk. So you won't be onstage with a candidate anytime soon?
I don't think so. I'm just enjoying the heck out of it for entertainment purposes. I love watching the political stuff on TV, it's our modern entertainment. If you go back in history to the Lincoln-Douglass Debates, that was entertainment at the time. These guys would go town to town and give speeches and everyone would come out to watch not only for political reasons but because it was an event – it was a thing to watch. So it does bleed into entertainment, which obviously it does in our current culture. That's why Donald Trump is doing so well. He's an entertainer first. He's out there pushing buttons that elicit a response. It's fascinating to watch the public's reaction and you got all these other candidates who can't get a leg in [laughs]. It's fascinating to me.
It is. It's him and Bernie Sanders coming off as the only non-politicians speaking from a real place, whether it be good or horrible, but somewhere real.
Right, and I think people are responding to that. As clunky and politically incorrect as Trump is, oddly that's the appeal to many people. There's this backlash of political correctness so it's almost like the more he puts his foot in his mouth the more people are cheering him on. It's really bizarre.
I guess a lot of America has feet in their mouths. Enough about politics. You were a huge part of Letterman, do you have any plans on where your late night appearances will be?
I don't know yet, I'd just like to be able to do everybody and anybody. With the Letterman show I had a good thing going so I felt like I was in that camp. So now that that show is over, I'd like to do all these shows. We'll see what happens.
You were really funny as the audio engineer in Chris Rock's recent movie Top Five. Did you enjoy acting and do you think you'll do any more?
I really enjoyed it a lot! It's the only movie I've ever been in. Other actors have reels they use to send out to get acting work, and [laughs] my acting career is shorter than another actor's reel. I can send it out and they'll be like “let's see some other stuff” and I'll say “There is no other stuff!" You either like it or you don't.
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Finally, any projects you're working on, anything in the pipe?
Hmmm. I wish I had some kind of big thing that I could pump. You know like, I'm going to be the 13th man on the moon, but the first comedy special from the moon. But I gotta talk to some people to approve it. That'd be big, I'd get some buzz about that. I'd have to hire some young people to put it out on social media. “The guy's doin' a special from the moon and he doesn't know what Instagram is!”
Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center on Friday, December 11. Show begins at 8 p.m., tickets start at $39.50. Visit arshtcenter.org.
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