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Like most stand-up comics, Brian Regan’s career began rather small: telling jokes at a neighborhood comedy club — usually at the end of the night, when audiences were just as ready to go home as to they were to stay.
It was a string of off nights at that club that nearly convinced the young comic he made the wrong choice of professions. Now with 26 appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman to his credit, two Comedy Central hour-long specials, and a legion of fans, Jerry Seinfeld among them, Regan can look back at that decision with no regrets.
Regan performs Jan. 9 at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $38 and available via etix.com, the Stranahan box office, or by calling 419-381-8851.
In a recent phone interview, The Blade talked with Regan about that moment of self doubt, about the pitfalls of being a comic, and what he would still like to accomplish in his career.
Q: You've been a successful comic for so long, it's easy to know you made the correct career choice. But has there ever been a moment when you doubted that decision?
A: Well, there was a time early in my career, this might have been within the first year. The comedy club where I started at, the guy who ran the place was nice enough to let me go on seven nights a week and some of the situations weren’t great, it was like at the end of the show as the audience was leaving and he’d throw the locals up for a few minutes. And there was a period in there where I had seven to 10 bad shows in a row. It was a combination of being new and being green and having bad situations in front me … and I remember going back to my little apartment and looking in the mirror after like the 10th of those and trying to look at this guy and going, “Am I just delusional? Why would I think that I’m a funny guy if 10 times in a row no one else seems to agree? Am I just out of my mind to be pursuing this?” And then of course the next night I go in and I kill. Oh, OK, well there it is, it’s just a question of trying to make it more consistent and make the bad shows fewer and fewer in between.
Q: As a stand-up, how quickly do you know if the audience is into your routine or not?
A: You get those experiences both ways. You get onstage and have a crowd in the palm of your hand and it’s like OK, all I have to do is keep riding this bull and this will be fun. But you can lose a crowd, [though] not completely. You can start off killing and get a little cocky … and then hit some drier patches within that set. The flipside, though, is much more dangerous. If the crowd isn’t laughing within the first five or 10 minutes, it’s very, very, very, very hard to turn them around. It’s very hard to get a roomful of people who have all agreed telekinetically that you're not funny to [laugh].
Q: What are the pitfalls of being a stand-up comic? Is it a pervasive feeling by others who always expect you to be “on”?
A: Well, I personally don’t feel that pressure but I feel like they feel I should be funny. It can be a little awkward. I'm much more comfortable around people who have seen me do stand-up comedy. I feel like I’ve shown them I can do what I claim to be. But it’s like if you meet somebody who’s never seen you — and I never say I’m a comedian, but if somebody else says, “Oh, this guy is a comedian” — then they’re kind of looking at me like, “I need some proof here, Chuckles.”
Q: You’re 56, so what’s something in your career you haven’t accomplished?
A: It’s interesting, I just had this conversation with my manager over the last couple of weeks. On the one hand, I’m proud of everything that I’ve accomplished. But there’s always that other thing. I would love to have an HBO special. I’ve never been able to turn the corner with them, for whatever reason. They don’t do as many stand-up comedy specials as they used to, but that would be something I’d like to hang my hat on. And another thing is, I’d love to be able to do a TV show based on how I think as a stand-up comedian. I’d love for a network TV show to say “You’ve accomplished some pretty decent things here, why don’t you take a shot at it.” Sometimes I feel like Dan Marino, a really good quarterback who never won a Super Bowl.
Comedian Brian Regan performs Jan. 9 at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $38 and available via etix.com, the Stranahan box office, or by calling 419-381-8851.
Contact Kirk Baird firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.