Brian Regan has developed a distinct brand of comedy. His performances deliver amusing commentary about the American way of life by blending smart writing with a commanding persona. Ordinary, relatable scenarios become fodder for big laughs when he takes the stage. This Sunday, the nationally acclaimed performer returns to Wichita to rouse audiences at The Cotillion.
“I try to talk about stuff that is current in my life. I like my subject matter to be very American, like an all-American perspective from an everyday Joe Blow going through our culture,” Regan said of his routine. “I try to find odd, twisty, peculiar things within the mundane. I’m talking about stuff that we can all relate to.”
Instead of eliciting laughs from sexually provocative or raunchy material, Regan, 56, is known for his clean approach to comedy. The Florida-native presents himself as an easygoing, average guy, and frequently makes himself the butt of his jokes. Storytelling is his main method of delivery, drawing in audiences with experiences like a trip to the optometrist, the trials of being a parent, or shipping packages at the UPS store. He often uses his childhood as the basis for material, retelling anecdotes about his days in little league and competing in spelling bees. His off-center humor attracts fans of all ages.
“The clean thing is not something that is overly important from my perspective. I just happen to work that way,” he said. “I tend to talk about everyday things and stuff like that. It ends up being clean…but it’s not like a path or a quest.”
Numbers, not jokes, were Regan’s original focus. He was studying to be an accountant in Tiffin, Ohio when he decided that trajectory was too rigid. He switched majors to communications and theater arts.
“One of my first classes in that major was a speech class, and I used to try to make my speeches funny,” he said. “I loved that feeling of making the other students and the teacher laugh. It felt good, and I said I wanted to do this forever and ever.”
That’s a desire that has worked out well for him. In 1980, he dropped out of school during his last semester to pursue a career in comedy. Though he later returned to get his degree, he has since become one of the best regarded comedians in the country. He’s performed on David Letterman’s show 25 times since 1995, more than any other comedian on a CBS show. He’s also opened for Jerry Seinfeld and had specials on Comedy Central. He broke the record for the most consecutive shows by a single comedian at Salt Lake City’s Abravanel Hall in January 2012 with ten sold-out performances. His 1997 CD, “Brian Regan Live,” has sold more than 150,000 copies and regularly charts in iTunes’ Top Ten Comedy Albums. His second album, “All By Myself,” was released in 2010 via CD exclusively on his website. He also has several self-released DVDs.
“I’ve learned to do an act that is broad enough to travel throughout the country,” Regan said. “It can work in Wichita and it can work in Boston. I also spent a lot of time in New York City earlier in my career where you didn’t survive unless you were distinct and original. I’m trying to defend being a good guy. I don’t mean anybody any harm. I’m not out there to hurt anybody. I’m just trying to go through life, but don’t get in my way. If you’re nice, I’ll be nice to you. But if you’re a jerk, or inept, or stupid I’m coming after you in my comedy!”
Regan said that he tours non-stop, taking a few weeks off on occasions in between stints. He typically visits more than 80 cities each year. Through his comedy, he hopes to uplift audience’s spirits.
“I hope they leave feeling good about life,” he said. “I’ve heard from people who say that my shows are not only funny, but they leave feeling good. I’m not changing the world, but if I can give you a couple of laughs and make you feel good for a couple of hours, that’s pretty cool.”