Brian Regan has been called a people's comic for his everyman take on aging, family, texting and current events.
He has appeared on David Letterman more than 20 times and has sold out venues nationwide since 2005. Admired by college kids and grandmas, he is among the few comics who have made the leap from comedy clubs to theaters without the exposure of having his own TV show or movie.
And he has done it without uttering a single four-letter word.
Fresh off the digital release of his latest album, All By Myself, Regan performs Saturday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Joining him will be his older brother, Dennis, a comedian and former writer for the CBS sitcom The King of Queens.
Regan, 53, spoke with tbt* about his style of comedy and his Mr. Clean reputation.
How does it feel performing in your native state?
I always like going back to Florida. The first thing that's always interesting is when you get off the plane and you get that onslaught of humidity. I grew up in Miami and played football in high school, and every time I go back, especially in August, I think, "How did I possibly survive my teen years playing football in this heat?"
Do you get tired of being referred to as the clean comic?
It's a double-edged sword. I don't sit down in front of a piece of paper and go, "I'm going to write some clean jokes." I just write what I gravitate toward, and it just happens to be everyday kinds of things. You can either enjoy the comedy or enjoy the fact that it's clean. To me, I'm more into the comedy part.
It seems like it would be more difficult to make people laugh without cursing. Is that true?
People do respond to four-letter words. I have no problem with comedians who use them or who are blue or dirty, especially if it's organic to them like Richard Pryor, who was probably the best comedian who ever lived. For me, it wouldn't be truthful or organic. I like to talk about a box of Pop-Tarts and things like that. I think every comedian should do what's natural to them.
How do people respond when you do curse?
It can be weird off stage because my working clean thing is only on stage. It doesn't necessarily translate that I'm Mr. Johnny Wholesome off stage. If someone were to hear me bang my pinky toe on a coffee table, they'd hear words they wouldn't hear me say on stage. That would be an interesting show if they just put a coffee table on stage and turned the lights out. People would get a whole new experience.
Did you grow up in an environment where your parents frowned upon swearing?
Yeah, we were not allowed to curse in our house or in our yard. We called it cussing, and sometimes kids from the neighborhood would come over and they would cuss, and we had to take them aside and say, "Listen man, you're going to get kicked out of our yard if our parents hear you talking like that." It was almost like a hospital has a quiet zone. Our house had a no cussing zone.
How did you come to do comedy?
I went to college to become an accountant. I got bored with that and switched majors to communication and theater arts. One of my first classes was a speech class, and every week we had to do a speech in front of a class. I tried to make them funny. That first time that I connected with the class and had everyone laughing, I remember walking back to my dorm and going, "I never felt like this when I walked back from accounting class."
Living in Las Vegas, you must find a ton of fodder.
I'm probably the only person in the world who likes a long commute. I don't like to work where I live, and you would think that with so many places to perform here it would be a no-brainer for me to hop in a car and in 15 minutes be on stage. But when I'm here, I'm into being a daddy, and then I hop on a plane and go 1,000 miles away and do my comedy elsewhere.
So you must enjoy traveling.
I love it. It's funny sometimes. You'll be in a different hotel every night, and you kind of get disoriented. I woke up in a hotel one time at 4 in the afternoon and I had no clue where I was. I couldn't find my calendar and called down to the front desk and said, "I've got an embarrassing question. Can you tell me where I am?" The woman said, "Don't worry, you're on Elm Street." And I'm like, "I need to know what part of planet Earth. Elm Street is a nice start, but I need to know a city, state and country."
You've said you're not interested in being a TV actor. Are there any particular shows that you like?
I don't really watch fiction on television. … I like news, history, documentaries. But fiction, which to me includes reality shows, I'm not interested in that.
So what do you like to do for fun?
I need to broaden that so I have a more interesting answer from what I'm about to give you. I like to sleep, and I like to golf and watch football. But mostly I'm interested in being with the kids and taking them to Laser Quest and bowling. Any time that I can be around them, that's the highlight of my life.