“One thing I love about comedy is that it can be about all kinds of things. It can be about very serious things; it can be about mundane things,” said comedian Brian Regan. “For me, I tend to get humor in everyday human experiences that hopefully people can relate to.” In his 2017 Netflix special, Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, he does just that by exploring topics such as the elastic on underpants and the absurdity of tennis scoring. It’s his PG/PC humor that has garnered him a loyal fan following for two decades. Even when he touches on politics — as he does in Flamethrowers — he keeps his humor observational as opposed to caustic. “Lately, I am trying to push the envelope a bit,” he said, “but I try to be careful; I still want the kind of jokes that both sides can laugh at. Whether you’re on the right or whether on the left, I still want you to be able to enjoy the perspective I’m taking.”
Nunchucks and Flamethrowers was Regan’s first special in a two-show development contract with Netflix. He is currently writing and trying out material for his next special. Santa Barbarans can see the comedian when he comes to the Chumash Casino on July 13. I caught up with Regan over the phone. The following is an edited version of our conversation.
Why did you go the stand-up route? It seems particularly brutal. Well, it certainly can be hard when it’s not working. [Laughs.] It’s a horrible experience when you’re onstage trying to be funny, and nobody in the audience agrees with the fact that you’re trying to be funny. Or maybe they know you’re trying to be funny, but they don’t think you are. That’s part of what’s thrilling about it, too, because when it does work, it feels pretty great.
You worked a long time on the stand-up circuit before you broke into television. How did you persevere? When I [began], comedy clubs exploded all over the country. When I was young and wanted to be a comedian, the only clubs were in New York and L.A., so I figured I would move to one of those two cites. But then that comedy explosion happened. I basically was able to get gigs almost every single week. Not because I was so good, but because comedy clubs needed comedians. It was a supply-and-demand thing. … I wasn’t making a fortune, but I was able to go from town to town and do my comedy, get a few hundred bucks in my pocket, and move on to the next town. I was able to do stand-up basically continuously since college.
When was the comedy club explosion? The first one was the mid-’80s. There was a realization around the country that you could open up a club and bring some funny people in, and people will come out and have a couple of cocktails and watch comedians. Prior to that, there were music clubs all over the country, but there weren’t comedy clubs. Then every city started opening comedy clubs — Des Moines, Iowa; Erie, Pennsylvania; and Chicago. … What was weird at the beginning is that comedy was the draw, not individual comedians. … There were no real “comedy stars” back then. And then after a while, people started breaking through and becoming names, and then certain comedians were draws, while others weren’t.
Do you recall when you became the draw? I was able to work just because I could stand onstage and not melt for 30 minutes. I wasn’t great, but I was adequate. And then after that first comedy explosion, people started getting bored with going to a comedy club and not knowing who was going to be there. So then the only comedians that were still able to work consistently were the ones who were draws. And right around at that time, I had been able to get my foot in the door and get some TV appearances, and so people knew who I was.
What else are you working on? I am involved in another project for Netflix where I’m trying to create a stand-up/sketch hybrid show. So I have to write the sketches along with some other writers. It’s a process. You write it; then you rewrite it; then you rewrite it; then you cast it; then you shoot it, and then you edit it. … [For stand-up], you think of a joke, tell it to somebody … and then I find out if it works or not. But [script]writing takes forever.
What is the Chumash show going to be about? Well, it’s mostly me working toward the next special. There might still be some stuff from Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, but that stuff, you know, is falling by the wayside. So, I’m playing around and experimenting, et cetera.
Brian Regan appears July 13, 8 p.m., at the Chumash Casino Resort (3400 E. Hwy. 246, Santa Ynez). Call 686-3805 or see chumashcasino.com.