Comedian Brian Regan wouldn’t mind if his role in “Top Five,” last year’s movie starring Chris Rock, leads to more acting roles. But he’s not giving up his day job – er, night job – as a stand-up comedian just yet.
“First of all, I appreciated it, and secondly, yeah, I would love to do more of that,” said Regan, who brings his act to the Cotillion on Thursday, from his home in Las Vegas. “Not that it was a ground-breaking Academy Award performance, but I thought it was funny enough that some director would think to himself, ‘Maybe I should call him.’ But nothing. Maybe I should ask Chris Rock to scroll my number across the bottom of the screen.”
The part and Regan’s self-deprecating account say plenty about the comic. First, Rock and many of the other biggest names in comedy think Regan is hilarious. Second, Regan comes across as a genuinely nice guy who appreciates his success and says a quick thank-you every time someone offers him a compliment.
Regan’s part, which made it into the “Top Five” trailer, amounted to something of an in-joke for fans. Known for working without profanity in his stand-up act, Regan’s character in the movie urges Rock to add a little raunchiness to a radio spot he’s cutting.
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On stage, Regan’s style is observational, pointing out the everyday absurdities we take for granted, and more physical than many of his counterparts. Jerry Seinfeld described him as “just a straight-up goofball” and one his favorite comedians when Regan appeared on Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
“If you really analyze my act, it’s not really jokes,” Regan said. “It’s more like little vignettes, usually a situation – me and an eye doctor, or me and a flight attendant, or me and an inanimate object. I have to act them out for them to work.”
Regan grew up in Florida, part of a big Irish family and a big fan of comedians like Steve Martin and Johnny Carson. He went to college in Ohio, playing on its football team and studying to be an accountant, until his football coach told the team cut-up he ought to consider theater and communications. He dropped out of school in his senior year to take up stand-up comedy. Side note: Reagan has a brother, Dennis, who’s also a stand-up comedian. Brian says the two are close but rarely work together.
Regan has recorded CDs and DVDs of live shows and starred in two one-hour specials on Comedy Central. He has appeared on the “Late Show With David Letterman” 28 times, with a final appearance scheduled before Letterman leaves the show this year.
He called those appearances “a completely different animal” than his live concert shows, where he has an hour to entertain an audience of people “who came to see me.” On Letterman, he’s got four to five minutes to impress an audience who is there mainly to see the legendary host and participate in the taping of a TV show.
“I have to prove myself every time, and it’s not easy. I love the challenge. I’m constantly writing, because I’ve been fortunate enough to know I’ll always be doing another ‘Letterman.’”
Regan has performed in Wichita three times previously – “in 2005, 2007 and 2012. I have my notes.” But the Cotillion audience shouldn’t expect much local material. Back when he worked comedy clubs, Regan spent enough time in different cities to write jokes about them. These days, he works about 26 long weekends – Thursday through Sunday – a year, flying in and out of places to appear mainly in concert venues.
The rest of the time, he tries to spend with his two children in Las Vegas, “being a daddy and all of that.”
Interestingly, Regan rarely performs there.
“I don’t like to work where I live,” Regan said, sounding like he might be working up another bit. “That is like backwards from most people. Most people want a very short commute. I want to get in a car, fly a thousand miles away and do my work. I’m interested in a long commute.”
Regan’s comedy isn’t usually topical, although he says he’s recently been writing a lot of jokes about foreign policy, to the confusion of his regular audiences. He also doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as that comic who doesn’t incorporate raw language into his act.
“To me, it’s more of an asterisk than the point of my comedy. I think some people might watch a clean show and think this must be this guy’s mission statement, to bring clean comedy to the world. The clean thing is more of a medium, like the way a painter might choose to use acrylics over oil. There are some comics out there who work blue who I think are brilliant. Richard Pryor might be the greatest stand-up comedian who ever worked.”
Like his buddy Seinfeld, Regan would love to do a TV show someday – if it could be based on his comedy and if he could have creative control, or at least significant input.
If and until that happens, he’s happy doing stand-up.
“Ultimately I just want to convey funny thoughts. It’s fun for me, it’s a challenge for me to get comedy out of everyday topics.”
If you go
Where: The Cotillion, 11120 W. Kellogg
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday