I had the great privilege of getting an exclusive phone interview with Brian Regan, an amazing comedian who has performed on the The Late Show with David Letterman, Comedy Central, Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and more! Now, he's coming to the Bay Area for two shows. His first show will be on Tuesday, August 27th at the Cobb's Comedy Club in San Francisco. The next will be on Thursday, August 29th at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, CA. You do not want to miss out on the opportunity to see this hilarious performer! Tickets and more information are at BrianRegan.com.
In the interview, we talked about specific bits in his acts, such as the quest to "go through life without looking stupid...it's not working out to well;" memories of playing baseball as a kid: not paying attention to the game, but imagining the snow cone at the end of the game; inability to use the phrase, "you too" at the proper moment; the love of doughnuts; and guessing somebody's gender wrong. These are all experiences that many of us have had personally or can relate to. That's one of the many reasons why Brian Regan's comedy has touched so many audiences.
Exclusive Interview with Brian Regan
Angela Schiavone: How did you get your start in comedy?
Brian Regan: Well, I was in college when I took a speech class, and just to make my speeches interesting to me, I tried to make them humorous. When I made the class laugh, and when I was walking back to my dorm, I had this feeling in my gut, and I remember thinking, “I don’t feel like this when I walk back from Biology class!” So, there was something inside that really enjoyed making people laugh in that setting. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a comedian.
AS: Wonderful. Do you have any favorite comedian influences that have inspired you?
BR: Well, there are a lot of comedians out there that, when I first started, I used to enjoy. I was always a big Steve Martin fan for how silly he could be. I still enjoy watching Steve Martin clips and stuff like that from when he was doing stand-up. George Carlin I liked for the way he was able to play with words and how much material he came out with. I think he did like over ten HBO 1-hour specials or something. Seinfeld - one of my first auditions, I saw Jerry Seinfeld perform at a comedy club in Fort Lauderdale before he had even been on TV. He hadn’t even done the Tonight Show yet, and I’ve always been a big fan of his. So, there are many comedians out there who do things that I admire.
AS: I really love your comedy because it’s so relatable, and it’s a reflection of the oddities in life. My own quest to not look stupid is also not working out too well.
AS: I do plenty of the “you too” things all the time.
BR: I appreciate that! Thank you.
AS: I think there are a lot of us in the same boat with that one. How much of your work is based on real experiences that have happened to you?
BR: A lot of it. Some of the stuff I talk about is just almost verbatim from real life. Some of it is influenced by real life, and you change it a little bit. It’s almost like when a movie says “based on actual events,” you think, “How true is that?” Sometimes, comedy is like that. It’s based on actual events, but you might fudge it a little bit just to change the circumstances for the purpose of a bit. But you know, I think a lot of times - well, there are different kinds of comedy, but a lot of the kind of comedy that I do comes out of real human moments. For them to work, they have to be truthful kinds of things that people in the audience can go, “Yes, I’ve experienced that myself!”
AS: I know that’s something with me with “Snow Cone.” I hated sports growing up, and all I would think about was the treat I got at the end of the game.
BR: Hahahaha! That’s great. You know, stuff like that. It makes me feel good when you can hit a nerve with something cuz sometimes you think of something, and you try it onstage, and the audience doesn’t seem to really connect to it, but then there are other times when you go, “Wow! This one, for some reason, seems to connect better than some of the other thoughts I’ve had.”
AS: And that’s one of the great things I’ve noticed about your comedy is even when something doesn’t land, you make that into a joke, and it’s an ongoing gag for the rest of the show.
BR: Hahaha! Well, that’s one of the luxuries of doing comedy. The ultimate objective is to get a laugh, so if you can get a laugh off the fact that you did not get a laugh, then you’ve kinda saved the moment. But, you know, other professions don’t have that luxury. You don’t want to hear a brain surgeon say, “Man, am I so stupid! I cut on the wrong side of your head!!”
AS: Hahahaha! Oh, no! You definitely don’t want to hear that! So, you have very clean comedy. Have you ever felt pressure to change that?
BR: I don’t feel any pressure from anyone else. There are times when I can think of something that is off-the-tracks a little bit and sometimes I wonder if I could ever push the envelope and go in that direction. But, right now, I like doing what I do, and I save my darker thoughts for people, friends of mine, offstage.
AS: So, do you start cursing up a storm the moment you get offstage?
BR: HAHAHA! No, not the moment I get offstage.
AS: Five minutes later?
BR: I think of some pretty twisty things sometimes, and people who know me say, “Man, if your fans only knew how dark and twisty you can be, they’d be surprised.” It’s mostly like gallows humor. You know, what I mean? You can poke fun at some pretty difficult circumstances, and it’s just a way to pop the bubble. I don’t do that thing onstage usually, but offstage sometimes I might.
AS: So, that kinda reminds me about one of your jokes about “Sorry about your uncle Fred, but hey, sometimes you just land up dead.” Have you ever used comedy in a situation where it backfired?
BR: Wow, trying to think of a specific example. I sometimes try to be very careful. You pick your moments, you know? Usually, if you say something kind of, you know, off-track, I tend to be very careful with who my audience is. I’m talking about my offstage audience, a person that you are playing around with. I can’t remember a specific example, but every once in a while, you’re going to take a gamble and you’re going to miss. Somebody is going to be like “well, I don’t think that’s very funny.” And you’ll be like, “I was joking. I was just trying to make the moment light.” You gotta take those gambles in life occasionally.
AS: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?
BR: Well, you know, it touches your heart when someone can come up to you and say that they went through a difficult health experience or something. Sometimes you’ll hear from people who say they were in a hospital, and they were in some very trying circumstances, and they used humor to kinda get through it. They might say, “Hey, your stuff meant a lot to me. It helped me in my recovery.” You know, when you hear stuff like that, it’s just pretty overwhelming because sometimes you just think about the math and the science of making a joke that will get somebody to laugh, and you forget sometimes that you can make an emotional connection with people. So, that’s always a nice compliment when people include the emotional aspect of how it made them feel.
AS: Absolutely. You know, I remember one of your jokes that your son actually told you about why don’t dinosaurs talk (because they’re all dead). Would you like him to follow in your footsteps and, if so, what would you tell him about the industry?
BR: Well, I have two children: my son, who is now 14, and my little girl who’s 9, and I would want them to pursue whatever their hearts tell them. So, I wouldn’t guide them towards comedy, but if they chose that I would say, “Go for it.” My advice to them would be no matter what they go into - you know, sometimes when I’m onstage and I’m not getting laughs, I try to make sure the goal is something I can obtain while I’m onstage. I know this sounds weird, but sometimes you feel like, “Wow, I’m not connecting with this audience.” Then, I’ll realize that well now I’m making the mistake of trying to figure out what these people will laugh at, and that’s not why comedy works, at least from my perspective. I think comedy works because I’m saying things that I think are funny. So, what I do when I’m onstage, and I’m not doing well, I just say to myself, “Imagine me sitting out in the middle of the audience. Now, just try to make me laugh. What would I laugh at? Pretend there’s nobody else out there.” So, I think it’s a comforting notion to just change your quest and make it things that you know you can obtain. If they were to get into comedy or anything, I would just say, “Just make sure you’re staying true to yourself, and do what you think is good in that craft or field and then let everything else fall where it falls.”
AS: Well, it’s definitely worked for you. Your comedy is amazing.
BR: Well, that’s very nice. Thank you.
AS: So, let’s ask some goofy questions now. How many times have you mistaken someone’s gender?
BR: It has happened. That bit is from a true experience. It was someone working at a salad bar, and I said, “Excuse me, sir,” and this person said, “ma’am.” Haha! That’s what I do onstage, but it’s from an actual truthful experience, and I just remember being stunned like, “I don’t know what to do here.” It’s happened more recently too with a bell person in a hotel. When I said, “Wow, thank you, sir, for all your help” and then I heard a woman’s voice, and I saw earrings in the ear, not that that means someone’s a woman, but I just remember going, “Oh, my. I’ve been off-track!”
AS: My fiancé and I had that experience in a Safeway. He bumped into someone and said, “Excuse me, sir,” and the person turned around, and it was a woman. He grabbed me and ran.
AS: He’s like, “Just keep going!”
BR: It’s as good enough a response as any!
AS: So what is your most embarrassing moment?
BR: Jeepers... Well, sometimes when I do something from my act like offstage, something that I make fun of. Well, you know like the “you too” thing? I did that at an airport a couple years ago. I mean, the bit is from many years ago. The person gave me boarding passes at the airport and said, “Have a nice flight,” and I said, “You too.” Then, I said, “Wow! Oh, wow, that was stupid,” and she said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. People say that all the time.” And I’m like, “You don’t understand. If anybody shouldn’t be making that mistake, it’s me!”
AS: Well, I continuously do that and then I have to text my friend and say, “Yep. I just did it again.”
BR: Hahaha! Somethings are just going to be happening throughout life.
AS: Yup! So, if you could have any superpower, what would you like to have?
BR: Wow... I should have my answer ready. This is the kind of question my 14-year-old always asks. He is into superheroes and stuff like that. He’s always asking me superhero questions and “what power would you like,” “what power would you use if you were on another planet.” Haha! So, my mind is always going. Hmm, superhero power. I probably would just want to fly. I definitely would not want to be able to see through walls. Haha! I think walls are there for a reason. People put them up for a reason. You don’t want to be looking through them. So, I think that would only cause nothing but misery and angst to know what’s happening behind people’s walls.
AS: Haha! I totally agree! What is your favorite doughnut?
BR: Krispy Kreme Chocolate Iced. I absolutely love them. I will get a dozen of them. I’ve eaten 10 in one sitting. It’s not something I’m proud of, well in a way I’m proud of it.
AS: I’d be proud of that!
BR: I wouldn’t say this in a nutrition magazine interview! Haha! Yeah, man, there’s something about those donuts that’s just off the charts, so yeah. I love them.
AS: Wonderful. So, I’m very excited to see your show in Saratoga, and I see you have another one in San Francisco. Do you have any other plans while you’re in the Bay Area?
BR: Well, I’ve got a charity show I’m doing on Tuesday in San Francisco. Then, I’m doing the show in Saratoga on Thursday. Then, a show in Vancouver, Canada on that Friday. And then an Alaska one on Saturday. So, I don’t know what else I’m going to be doing, but hopefully checking out some stuff. It’s a beautiful area, and I always love coming to town.
AS: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your time. This has been an amazing experience to get to meet you over the phone.
BR: You’re very kind, Angela. Thank you so much for the interview, and you have a great day.
AS: Thank you. Take luck!
BR: Haha! Thanks!
Make sure to check out Brian Regan's shows coming up! You'll be glad you did!