No comedian has been on The Late Show with David Letterman 26 times in the span of 20 years — other than Brian Regan. You’ve seen him most onstage and on TV specials on Netflix and Comedy Central, but at times, he also works behind the scenes as a voice actor for The Looney Tunes Show or appears in Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Chris Rock’s action comedy Top Five. Nominated for a 2014 American Comedy Award for Best Concert Comic, Regan has been mastering his brand of humor since his beginning days of going from comedy club to comedy club.
I chatted with Regan via phone about his life, brand of humor, and upcoming Santa Barbara show. In the middle of a question, he interrupted with a disappointing sigh and started talking about coffee. Organic material — that is what can be expected at his shows.
Tell me a good story, one that captures who you are. Hmm. I don’t know I’ve been around on this earth awhile. I’m trying to think of something specific… [We decided to come back to this question later.]
How’s life in Las Vegas? It’s great! I’ve got white tigers that I live with and a closet full of rhinestone capes. I gamble and date those women that wear those big feather headdresses all the time, so, yeah, that’s what life is like. [Laughs.] No, actually, other than what people know of Las Vegas, it can be quite suburban. I’ve got two kids who are sleeping right now, and life is good.
Is your family funny? My kids are very funny. They once gave me a Father’s Day card that said, “You are a much better daddy than you are a brownie maker.” [Laughs.] They’re playful; and everyone in my family is kind of funny. My mom and dad are both still alive, which is cool. They’re 88 years old. They’ve been around a long time, and they’ve always had a great sense of humor. I have seven brothers and sisters, and they’re all funny in their own way.
Who or what made you want to become a comedian? I was in college, and I took a speech class, and I used to try to make my speeches funny. I remember that feeling of getting my class laughing. When I’d walk back to my dorm, I remember thinking, “I don’t feel this when I’m walking back from Biology…” I realized I wanted more of that.
Compare your feelings during your first show ever to the most recent one. I’m sorry; I’m trying to make coffee. Are you a coffee drinker? I love coffee. Oh, well, my coffee pot broke yesterday, and I was hoping it would work today, and I just realized that I made myself a big pot of hot water. [Laughs.] The coffee didn’t grind. Nothing. It’s really disappointing. It didn’t magically fix itself over night? [Laughs.] I thought this was a magical coffee pot or that genies would’ve come overnight and fixed it. Okay, I’m sorry; you asked a question. Compare your feelings during your first show ever to the most recent one. Oddly enough, the feelings are the same. The nerves don’t go completely away, but that’s part of why I do it. You know that butterfly feeling? I find that the best memories take place right after that. We shouldn’t avoid those; we should seek it.
Are you looking forward to Santa Barbara? Yes, it’s beautiful there. It’s a weird tour weekend for me, so we probably won’t be able to enjoy Santa Barbara the way I’d like to enjoy it. We’re basically coming in, doing the show, and bolting out, which I’m sure is not something the public relations people of Santa Barbara would like to put on a bumper sticker: “Blow into town, then blow out: Santa Barbara.” [Laughs.] But I’ll tell you what: It’ll be beautiful as we’re blowing in and blowing out. [Laughs.]
Would you consider your show a family-friendly show? I mean the term is strange because it suggests something. I’m not necessarily twisting balloon animals to make kids scream with glee; it just happens to be clean; but I do a lot of stuff that’s not geared toward kids. I have jokes about having high cholesterol and signing mortgage documents. You know, these are not things that kids will say, “More! More! More cholesterol jokes, please!” [Laughs.] I’ll probably do a bit or two that kids can relate to. I’m just trying to make everybody laugh.
While other comedians feed off of “dirty comedy,” how challenging is it for you to stay “clean”? Eh, it’s not that hard. I just comedically tend to think of everyday stuff. Sometimes you’ll have that someone who can be raunchy or filthy, getting the crowd hoopin’ and hollerin’ and giving each other high-fives, and I’m like, “I’m gonna go up there and talk about donut sprinkles.” [Laughs.]
Do you have any comedic heroes? I really loved Steve Martin when he exploded comedically. He doesn’t do stand-up anymore, but he was somebody who was approaching comedy from a perspective I had never seen before. He created an interesting mixture of smart and silly. You’re laughing with him as you’re laughing at his character. I really enjoyed that, but then you like other people for other things. I like Jerry Seinfeld for his ability to find comedy out of everyday things. I like that 99 percent of the world looks at a bag of cotton balls and looks away, and Jerry looks at one and says, “Hey, I have five minutes of comedy here,” … and then you have other comedians like Maria Bamford who lives these characters she creates, and it’s beautiful to watch. The more unique a comedy vision, the more interested I am in it. —
So… Tell me a good story. Gah! I wish I had a team of writers that came up with good stories about me. “Make it up — I don’t care!” I’m kind of embarrassed I’m not hitting on something. I’m worried that I’m gonna sound self-serving. [In a humorous tone], “Well I remember one time I built a soup kitchen with my bare hands and went around the community and personally walked all those in need to my soup kitchen, and I personally fed them and gave them nutrition and put them on the right path toward… you know… where they should be.” [Laughs.] [In normal voice] There is one story. Comedy is like a lot of other things. You have to have passion to succeed in it. The willingness to put yourself out there and possibly fail is the only way you’re gonna openly succeed. I’m willing to fail. I think I gave you a 73,000-word answer to your yes-or-no question.
Brian Regan will be performing Sunday, April 26, 7 p.m., at the Arlington Theatre (1317 State St.). For tickets and more information, call 963-4408 or visit ticketmaster.com.