by Frank O’Donnell
When we chatted, Brian Regan was in the middle of a big week. “I was in Erie last night,” said the comedian. “Bethlehem tonight. The one in Pennsylvania, of course.”
Regan’s been working as a stand-up comic since 1981, and on Thursday night, he’ll make a stop at the Providence Performing Arts Center. He remembers making the transition from clubs to bigger venues about a dozen years ago. “I was doing well in clubs, drawing full crowds over the weekend. I thought, why not put all those folks into one show in a larger venue, and then do a couple of those big shows in a weekend in different towns.”
And that was the start of his non-tour. He works about half of the weekends in a year, doing four-night runs. “When our first child was born, I vowed to work half the year. I wanted to be a daddy.”
Regan’s comedy dates back to his time Heidelberg College. “I tried comedy a couple of times in college. I found venues willing to give it a shot.” He knew early on that he wanted to be a comedian. “It was an outrageous dream of mine. It filled me with passion.”
He started out as an economics major. “I thought I’d be an accountant. After three weeks, I switched to communications and theater.”
After college, he planned to move to New York or Los Angeles to pursue his comedy dreams. But then he saw an ad in his hometown Miami Herald about a comedy club in Fort Lauderdale. “I could achieve my dream on a tank of gas.” He drove up to the Comic Strip and got on stage for their Monday Open Mic show. “It’s something I’ll never forget,” and he’s never really looked back.
“I drove by the Comic Strip about a year ago,” he says. “The spot is selling washers and dryers now. That’s so sad.”
Regan’s not one of those comics who sits down to write. “I wait for it to come to me. I used to try to sit down and write stuff, but that just doesn’t work for me.” So as he goes through his daily routine, he will occasionally “see something different or differently, and say, hey, there’s a bit there. Then I sit down and craft it.”
He does enjoy “winging it” occasionally. “Some of the best writing is done on stage. Being in front of people forces you to edit.”
Regan’s describes his material as observational, about his life, his work, and human behavior. “Sometimes I throw a curve ball, something absurdist, to keep people on their toes. It’s a herky jerky ride.”
One thing he does not do is material about his children. “I don’t want my kids to feel their behavior is fodder for my act.” When he has downtime, he spends it with his kids. “The dad thing is important to me.”
He tells a story about meeting a professed fan in an elevator. “The guy quotes one of my jokes to me, but incorrectly. I do a bit where I say ‘You too!’ But the guy says, ‘Oh, you’re the guy who says, ‘And you!’ I say, ‘And you!’ all the time. It’s not my bit, but I don’t correct him.
As he left the elevator and was walking across the lobby, the fan “thinks it would be funny to chant, ‘And you! And you!’ I’m the only guy who knows what’s he’s saying, and I don’t know what he’s saying.”
Brian Regan appears at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Thursday, May 10. For tickets and information, call 401.421.ARTS or visit www.pppacri.org. For a taste of Regan’s style, check out this clip from Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZPqlKFtG7Y.