Brian Regan’s unique ability to state the obvious has been his ticket to landing a place among the comedy greats. Reeling off howl-inducing sets about some of life’s more mundane realities, Regan has won over the hearts of audiences with comedy that celebrates the absurdities of everyday life. Regan will grace the stage of Portland’s Keller Auditorium on Friday, Feb. 12. We talked touring, donuts and the lessons he’s learned from laughter.
Ellie Bradley: How long has Vegas been home for you?
Brian Regan: Well, I’ve been here about 12 years. But I lived in a few places between Florida and here. After Florida I went to college in Ohio for four years, then I went back to Florida, then I moved to New York City and did some comedy there for about eight years. Then I moved to Los Angeles, was there for a long time, and then moved here.
EB: Have you gotten to spend any time in Portland outside of your shows?
BR: A little bit, but not as much as I would like. You know, when I started doing the one-night venues, it was great and fun career-wise, but it’s sort of weird seeing-the-country-wise. Sometimes you literally get into town an hour or two before your show, do the show, and then you might blow out right afterward to get to the next town. But I have stayed in Portland for a day or whatever, walked around a little bit. It’s definitely a cool city; I love the short times I get to experience it.
EB: Have you noticed any differences between your experiences with audiences in different cities?
BR: Well, you know there’s a sameness throughout our country–people kind of laugh at the same thing everywhere. But some people have shorter fuses in certain areas. Like if you go to an audience in Boston, Philadelphia or New York, they can be fantastic audiences, but you also gotta get your foot in the door pretty quickly. You know what I mean?
EB: Not as patient for you to get funny?
BR: Exactly. They’re like, “Hey, we’ve got other things we can do.” But then you go to certain towns, like in the Midwest, and people are just looking at you like, “We’re just happy you came; we’re just thrilled that someone from not-here is here.”
EB: Anything that’s a major vibe-killer for you on stage?
BR: Yeah–looking off into the wings and seeing a stage worker looking on his iPhone and not paying one iota of attention to what I’m doing. Usually performers want the audience kind of dark. I want to see like the first few rows and that’s it. And sometimes it’s hard for them to do that; sometimes you really don’t even get to see the first few rows. And what stinks is when the only person you can see is the only person who’s not paying attention. It will get into your subconscious.
EB: So I read that you make a weekly attempt at a dozen donuts.
BR: Well, I don’t know where the weekly attempt part came in…It used to be that occasionally I would give it a go. It was never once a week as a rule, and lately I’ve been trying to stay healthier. I lost a handful of pounds for this special I did lately, and I’m not anxious to put it back on. I’ve got the two kiddos, and we would occasionally take these pilgrimages to Krispy Kreme. And I don’t know why—I’m feeling like I’m a horrible daddy—like it used to be, “All right kids, you kids get two donuts each, so that’s four,” and I would get eight. And then a year ago, being Mr. Cool Daddy, I said, “Now you each get three donuts, and then I get six.” And then the last couple of times I’m like, “What kind of human being am I?” So now we’re all equal. Now we all get four donuts. I feel like I’m being more fair to my children and more fair to my stomach.
EB: You have two kids; do they play into your style of comedy [being known as a clean comedian]?
BR: No, that decision had nothing to do with them. I was doing that before my son was born. It’s more of a style kind of thing. The clean thing is always weird for me because I always worry that people get the wrong idea when they hear the word “clean.” I think they think that I’m riding in on a big white horse and saying, “Hear ye, hear ye, this way of approaching life is more wholesome than other ways.” I love dirty comedy. It’s just different strokes for different folks. I like jazz music and I like rock music. It’s two different kinds of things. So I like doing what I do, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s better than another kind of comedy.
EB: I’m curious how you would describe your style in a nutshell; what are your sets are about, if you had to quickly summarize it?
BR: Like if someone just met me at a party and asked me to describe it, I usually just say, “I’m not trying to be a jerk, but you kind [of] just have to see it. Because I can’t really explain it to you.”
EB: That’s a fair point. Unless you’ve seen it, it’s hard to describe. What’s a memorable show for you?
BR: Well, everybody likes to make people laugh; that’s obvious. But there are times when, while you’re doing a show, you can hear a particular laugher out there who just seems to have a connection that is pretty intense. That’s always fun, to really feel on the one hand you’re just trying to make them laugh. But it’s fun to occasionally hear individuals within that big blob of people and feel like, “Wow, you know, I’m really connecting on the funny-bone level here.” There are times, it’s gonna sound weird, but there are times when a joke doesn’t work, as far as the audience is concerned, but it does connect with one person. And not only does it connect–they’re like, howling. It’s a very pleasurable feeling cause you feel, “Ok, this is funny.” It’s validating. Clearly it’s not a wide-net kind of joke, but it’s still fun to connect.
EB: Looking ahead to your show in Portland, any words to your prospective audience members?
BR: I’ve been very bad at promo-ing myself. I was on a radio show one time, and they said, “Tell everybody why they should come out and see you.” And I said, “Well, I think I’m adequate as a comedian.” And the host’s like, “Adequate? You’re trying to move some tickets here, man.” Well, I want to guarantee to the people of Portland that if they want to see some adequate comedy, I’m their man.
EB: I will let them know.
BR: Yeah—adequate comedy, coming to town.
EB: Anything that you’ve learned from comedy that you hope to pass along to your kids? Or lessons that you want to impart to them?
BR: One thing I like about comedy is it’s a very honest, human connection. People don’t fake laugh. I mean, you can, but it’s kind of obvious when someone’s faking a laugh. So when you make someone laugh, there’s something you can trust in that. You can trust that you’re making a connection with that person. Forget about being on stage: I’m just talking about one-on-one. You make somebody laugh, you feel like you’re making a friend. And there’s something beautiful about that. Many other reactions in life, people can fake. And you can go, “Is this person on the up-and-up? Is this person being sincere?” That’s one thing I’ve always liked about comedy is that it’s a very quick and easy way to find out if somebody’s friend or foe. And so I’ve always found it beautiful in that way, that it’s a very honest, quick and trustworthy way of befriending someone.
Brian Regan performs at Keller Auditorium on Friday, Feb. 12.