Brian Regan returns to South Bend
Caelin Miltko | Monday, October 13, 2014
Regan has performed 26 times on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and released two hour-long TV specials, two CDs and three DVDs. He was nominated for a 2014 American Comedy Award for Best Concert Comic.
Both audiences and fellow comedians have praised Regan as one of the best stand-up comedians of this generation. The Observer had the chance to interview him before his show Thursday.
What does the creation process look like for you?
Well, I just go through my day the way I normally would. You know, I go where I would go, I see what I would normally see, I watch what I would normally watch, I read what I would normally read. Every now and then something jumps up and down and it just feels like it’s a bit or a joke or a routine. The initial inspiration is hard to figure out, where that comes from. But then once you have it, you can apply a craft to it. So it’s like okay I know how to take this thought and form it into a little bit that I can try on stage. So you can get it in that form and then you try it on stage and more writing takes place on stage. You know, you figure out how to say things in a tighter way or a better way once you’re up there. So I tape all my shows in case I do something differently on stage.
How would you say your creation process has developed over your career?
It’s a balance between brevity and exposition. It’s like you want to explain enough of an idea but you don’t want to over explain it. You can err on both sides. Sometimes you get it so lean and mean that you’re taking the heart out of the idea so you have to put some more words back in. But sometimes it’s way too wordy and you need to cut it down. So sometimes I feel like your show is sort of like a squeezebox — it’s like you’re opening it sometimes and sometimes you’re squishing it together. It’s fun that it’s constantly a work-in-progress. And in the same show, you might be doing one bit and stretching it out to see if there’s new funny stuff in there. The very next bit, you might be trying it much tighter version than that than you did the previous night. Audiences don’t know what you’re doing but it’s fun to be playing around like that on stage.
What is that you like so much about doing stand-up versus doing other types of comedy?
Well, in stand-up you get the immediate feedback. There’s just something really beautiful about thinking of something at 5 in the afternoon, trying it on stage that night and knowing right away whether or not you’re on the right track. You know, TV and stuff like that, from what little I’ve been involved with it, just seems like a much longer process. You write something and then you rewrite it and then other people weigh in on it and then you gotta cast for it and then you shoot it and then you edit it. You’ve got all these things happening where you go, you know, was it even funny to begin with? So it’s fun to be able to just try something right on stage in front of a bunch of people and go, hey, that worked.
What would be the one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Well it depends on what age I’m going for. I think comedy-wise, I made some pretty decent decisions over the years. I learned as I went along and it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back but just, you know, keep doing what you’re doing. The thing I’m happy about is that I didn’t quit. It’s not an easy ride. A lot of people’s goals can be challenging and comedy’s no different. I had to pay dues. I got on a Greyhound bus one time to go from one gig to the next and every seat was taken. I had to sit on the floor of a Greyhound bus. I remember just laughing to myself, going “Wow, there’s gotta be levels of this career that are higher than this.” But I loved it. I knew I was paying dues. It felt like if I’m willing to do this, then I must really want this dream.
What would you tell younger comedians/college-age students in general about getting into the business/doing what they love?
The thing that motivated me when I was in college, and I guess this could apply to anything, is that I had heard enough people in interviews and stuff say if I had my life to do over again, I would have tried this. People in their ’60s, ’70s, ’80s saying “If I had my life to do my life over again, I think I would have tried acting or I would have tried to make a business or something.” I said to myself, all these older people are saying this to younger people, I’m a younger person, I should listen to this. I just swore to myself that I would not get to an age where I said to myself I wonder what would have happened if I had tried stand-up comedy. I just said to myself I’m gonna try it and I refuse to ask myself this question in my ’70s or ’80s. So that’s what I would say — if there’s something inside you that you’re curious about, you should probably give it a shot.
Brian Regan will be performing Thursday at the Morris Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m.