- PHOTO BY BRIAN FREEDMAN
- SEEK OUT THE BUTTERFLIES! : Comic Brian Regan’s observational humor has won him fans from all walks of life.
Brian Regan’s reputation as a “clean” comedian hasn’t stopped him from getting laughs and rave reviews around the country. On the contrary, Regan’s musings on everyday human absurdity—from the grocery store to the airport—have an instant relatabilty. New Times chatted with Regan on his latest album, All By Myself; the pressures of being a “funny” person; and his acute aversion to dinner parties.
NEW TIMES Do you ever accidentally let something slip during a live performance?
BRIAN REGAN I use some mild curse words that I think are fair game. I might say “hell” or “damn.” But some people don’t even want to hear those, you know? I’ve had some comments from my guestbook on my web page saying, “Hey, man, what’s with the harsh language?” Jeepers. I can’t be all things to all people. I mean, if you’re offended by that, I don’t know what to tell you.
NEW TIMES You have this knack for pinpointing instances of human absurdity that people relate to. Our tendencies to one-up one another, for instance. Do you get the majority of your material from going to dinner parties?
REGAN [Laughs] I do not like dinner parties. I don’t like sitting with other people. I like to stand. I like to go to a place where I can stand, where you can turn and move. Sitting, to me, feels so constricted. You feel like you’re a hostage—you can’t get up and leave if someone’s saying something that’s stupid, or you feel stupid. … I like parties where everybody’s standing. People invite me over, and I say, “Do you have chairs?” And they go, “Of course we have chairs.” And I go, “Well, I’m not coming over then.” … If I ever build a home, I’m going to build a home with no couches, no chairs. You just come over and stand.
NEW TIMES Would you say you were always funny?
REGAN Well, I’m not always funny, you know? Sometimes I’ve have rooms full of people looking at me while I’m behind a microphone stand, thinking I’m not funny.
NEW TIMES That must be something that’s difficult, like, “Oh, you’ve got to meet my friend; he is so funny!” And then you just show up, and people look at you, expecting you to just be funny.
REGAN It can be challenging. I went out with a group of people a couple weeks ago. Two of them were people I knew; the other people I didn’t know, but the other people knew them. And one of them was like, “Man, I’ve been looking forward to this! I’ve heard I’m going to be laughing nonstop for four hours!”
NEW TIMES That will shut down any creativity you had.
REGAN Absolutely. It’s like: Don’t put that kind of pressure on me, man. I mean, if I think of something, I’ll say something funny, but don’t just, every time I open my mouth, go, “HERE IT COMES!”
NEW TIMES Were you always comfortable onstage?
REGAN Not when I first started, no. I still get nervous sometimes, but not to the degree that I did when I first started, you know? In fact, I used to get so scared. Before I went onstage, I would often think to myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I subjecting myself to this? All I have to do is quit. I don’t ever have to feel this feeling again.” But the thrills outweighed the down part, when you did go onstage, and you happened to have a good show, you know, the balance would shift, where you go, “It’s worth it.” You know those butterflies people get when they’re nervous, before they do something, where it’s like a sporting event? I used to play football, and I ran track. And you get those butterflies before your track event; you get those butterflies before you go onstage if you’re in a play. And a lot of people try to avoid those butterflies. It’s like, “No, I don’t like that feeling!” To me, all of my strongest memories are of things that followed those butterflies. I think it’s best not to avoid them, man. Seek out the butterflies!
NEW TIMES Tell me about your latest album, All By Myself. I think I’ve heard about two minutes and 13 seconds of it.
REGAN Well, that’s the whole album. It’s a two-minute-and-13-second album.
NEW TIMES Um.
REGAN It’s called All By Myself. It’s just me, onstage, doing my stand-up. What’s interesting is I have a “Thanks” section on the cover, and I have like 25 people that I thank, and those people go, “Why did you call it All By Myself? What about the rest of us? You’re thanking all of us, and yet somehow, you did it all by yourself.” Yeah, well, that’s the illusion I want to give.
NEW TIMES What other professions would you have chosen, were comedy not an option?
REGAN Well, I would have liked to have done something creative. I had a cartoon strip when I was in college for the college newspaper. I also had a humorous advice column. You know, if I wasn’t doing stand-up, I’d like to think I’d be doing something where I was creating. … If you really look at my jokes, they’re just like little plays. They’re little vignettes. I get onstage, and I act them out. I’m a bad playwright and a bad actor, but a good comedian.
NEW TIMES Do you go through a process of determining what’s good?
REGAN No. I mean, I might bounce a bit off somebody here or there, but I never do it to see whether or not it’s funny. I want to get onstage to see whether or not something’s funny. That, to me, is the thrill of it. You’ve got a bunch of people looking at you, and you’ve come up with this quirky thought, and you want to see if they think it’s as funny as you do. Sometimes they agree, and sometimes they don’t. I like that they don’t always agree. If it was foolproof, if it was 100 percent, it wouldn’t be as fun.
Arts Editor Anna Weltner demands at least an 80 percent success rate from her comedy. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.