Brian Regan traded accounting for a career in comedy and now he’s starting to clean up
By JENNIFER K. BAUER | INLAND360.COMEntertainment Weekly once called Brian Regan, “your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian,” words echoed by some of the biggest names in the business. Jerry Seinfeld and Jimmy Fallon both list him among their favorite stand-up comics, words backed up by the fact that Regan is a regular on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Regan’s act is built on everyday experiences that anyone can relate to. Before he performs Saturday in Pullman Inland 360 caught up with him by phone at his home in Las Vegas.
360: I read that before you considered going into comedy you went to college to be an accountant. Is that true?
Regan: When I was a little kid I wanted to be an airline pilot. By the time I decided to go to college, I thought maybe an accountant might be a good job. The accounting thing was making my eyes glaze over; there was no passion in it for me. I switched majors to communications and theater arts and just about everything I was doing was fun for me. I remember my first speech class. I would write my speeches to be funny and when I would make the class laugh, it was a tremendous feeling. What was even more of a tremendous feeling was the class had a woman teacher who would sit at the back and just howl at what I said. More and more I was just like, this is what I should do.
360: In Jerry Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” you talk to him about having eight siblings and two of you ended up becoming comedians. Did one of you get into it before the other or did you both get into the business at the same time?
Regan: It’s kind of a complicated story. I was the one who was first interested in stand-up. I auditioned at a comedy club in Fort Lauderdale and I thought maybe my older brother Dennis might be interested in this. We auditioned together one time. We followed this unknown person named Jerry Seinfeld; he’d not done his first “Tonight Show” yet. He killed it and we went down in flames and I think Dennis said, “I need this like I need a whole in the head.” I continued to pursue it myself. A few years later he got the bug again.
360: When you began doing comedy were there comedians you studied or tried to emulate?
Regan: I was fortunate in where I went to college. I’m going to date myself, it was pre-internet. It was a little school in Ohio called Heidelberg College, now Heidelberg University. We were impressed if somebody down the hall had a radio. Of course, I knew about Steve Martin and Richard Pryor and other comedians but there was no way to actually view content. Now if somebody wants to be a comedian, they could just look up comedians on the internet and watch clips. There was nobody to be influenced by. You had TV shows but they came on when they came on. Fortunately my beginning thoughts about comedy kind of came out of a vacuum, which helped me define a unique path.
360: You’re well-known for your clean humor. Did you resolve at some point not to go blue?
Regan: No, when I first started I was always mostly clean. That’s how I think comedically. I had a handful of jokes that were blue or dirty but they were a small part of my act and not the most natural part.
When I first went out on the road I still had some of those jokes. If I included those jokes, I noticed people would come up after the show and say, “Well, we thought you were funny.” The next night, if I didn’t include those jokes, I noticed people would come up after the show and say, “We thought you were funny but we also liked the fact you were clean and we’re coming back Saturday with our entire neighborhood.” It’s almost like people who like clean comedy send scouts out.
360: You’re often called the comedian’s comedian. Who do you like?
Regan: There are many comedians who I like. Obviously, I’m going to throw my brother’s name in there since we talked about him. I’ve always been a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld. I remember when Dennis and I in were in the audience howling at him thinking, if this is what I want to do and if this guy is not famous then this craft is not fair, there’s no justice in it. A month later, he did his first “Tonight Show,” so I felt justified.
Other comics, Maria Bamford does quirky unusual characters. It’s just very fun. She’s very odd and I don’t mean it in a bad way, I mean it in a good way. Chris Rock is great for pounding on the door for things he views as wrong in the world. I like the forum for enlightening people and it can be used that way.