Brian Regan goes full tilt with clean, quirky humor.
How does comedian Brian Regan find out where to show up for his next gig?
"They told me to call you to find out my calendar," he says to a T&G reporter, by phone from his home in Las Vegas recently. We told him he would be playing the Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester on Friday. "Worcester? That sounds like fun!!" he says, in an over-ebullient "Hey, kids!" radio announcer voice.
He was, of course, being funny. The itinerary is set far in advance since Regan has become one of the top comedians in the country, all without dropping a single F-bomb or crossing over to the bluer side of the laugh track even once. Regan does situational humor - vignettes about life dealing Average Joe another blow - yet there is an underlying sophistication to the jokes. Even so, it's not the lines so much as Regan's expressive intonation and ability to act out his bits that distinguishes him from the legions of joke-tellers on the comedy club circuit. A snippet: "Only your doctor has carte blanche on insults. He just insults you and you pay him on your way out. `You should lose some weight there, Brian, and those moles are looking weird.' All right, how much for that Doc? Big fat moleman on the way out. Thanks for the confidence boost. I'm going to the Macy's Parade. GRAB A ROPE."
In print, the bit is mildly amusing. In person, it is the kind of thing that has led to those comedic stamps of awesomeness: regular appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and coveted solo Comedy Central specials, including last fall's "The Epitome of Hyperbole." His 1997 CD "Brian Regan Live" has sold more than 150,000 copies, and his extended theater tour has visited more than 80 cities each year since 2005 and continues through this year. It is a show the whole family can go to. The G rating is something that just sort of happened and not a family-friendly letter he necessarily aimed for.
"It's weird," he said. "I think the clean thing for me is more like an asterisk. It's not the point of it. I don't sit down and go `Man, I'm gonna write me some cleeeeean comedy.' It just happens to be how I think. But there are comedians out there who work blue who I think are brilliant. It's like music. There's all kinds of stuff going on in the comedy world, and I like a lot of it. I just happen to like to perform one particular way."
Do you ever get an urge to drop an F-bomb?
"Oh yeah." He said. "Not onstage, where I'm not even, like, thinking. But sometime I will think of a joke that I think `God, man. If I cursed I could do this joke.' But I'm kind of anal, and I don't want to be 99 percent something. Why be 99 percent clean? Why not be 100 percent clean?"
Have you ever been to Worcester before?
"Yeah, but it was way back in the '80s in a bar that had comedy one night a week, and I was one of the three comedians that they would ship out from Boston," he said. "I didn't live in Boston. I was just vacationing there and comedy was so hot that I was able to get gigs just by calling somebody up and saying I was a comedian. They're, like, `OK. You're hired.'
"I remember it looked like it was going to be horrible. It was a nightclub where everyone was dancing and they were going to put the microphone out on the dance floor."
Regan doesn't recall details of that long-ago show, and there's another thing he doesn't know: Where his ideas come from.
"My crazy, goofy, off kilter brain," he said. "I don't know, man, to be honest with you. I wish I could say `Here's my formula. I sit down and I do this and I do that.' I kind of bump my way around in life, and you just kind of see things differently. You see things sideways. Maybe I have a really bad optometrist who's fitted me with a bad pair of glasses and I see things comedically. It's hard to put a finger on how or why some people see things from a different angle. But I get lucky enough every now and then to go, hey, maybe there's a joke there. You know?"
Do you see stuff like that every day?
"You kind of go through creative periods and then you can go another week and a half and not think of a single thing. I remember one time going for a walk, and I'm lucky that I had a piece of paper and a pen on me, but I just kept thinking of thing after thing after thing. I'd take 10 steps and stop and pull my piece of paper out, and I'd write on my thigh, and then I'd put it back in my pocket and walk another five steps. And all of a sudden I was, like, `Whoever's looking at me must think I'm some kind of crazed lunatic.' But when the mood strikes you, you want to take advantage of it."
What did you eat for breakfast that day?
"I wish I could remember."
Brian Regan - Live in Concert
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester
How much: $36.50, contact the Hanover box office at (877) 571-7469 or online at www.hanovertheatre.org
CUTLINE: Brian Regan continues his theater tour, which has been in more than 80 cities each year since 2005.
PHOTOG: Courtesy of BRIAN FRIEDMAN