Comedian Brian Regan said he developed his sense of humor, in large part, as a means of fitting in.
“This goes back to when you’re sitting around the lunch table in fifth grade and people are trying to decide if football is better than baseball,” said the stand-up comic, who headlines Overture Hall on Thursday, March 1. “It was like, ‘I like football!’ ‘I like baseball!’ Then they’d go, ‘What do you think, Brian?’ and I’d say, ‘I like ballet!’ Everybody laughs…and then I’m like, ‘Now I fit in with all these people.’”
Even today, Regan is regularly described as a “universal comic,” and his material focuses on subjects most anyone can relate to — things like Fig Newtons, yoga and trips to the doctor. in a recent phone interview, the comic discussed his Everyman reputation, why he no longer tells jokes about his children and his fears of being onstage in front of an audience with untied shoelaces.
You’re often described as a “universal comic.” what does that term mean to you?
I go to other planets and do my comedy throughout the solar system. I don’t know. I guess I try to keep the topic choices broad enough where everybody can relate. I try to find peculiar, fun stuff within everyday things. I talk about going to the doctor and going to the store and stuff that on the surface might seem pretty dull.
Have you always been someone who could find the amusing side in activities most people would consider mundane?
Well, early on I didn’t know what kind of comedian was going to be. I tried a little bit of everything when I first started because I was young and I didn’t know what direction to take. I had some stuff that was more on the dirty side of the tracks. I had a handful of props. I look back at my early act and I think, “Jeepers creepers, what was I all about?” after awhile I started to realize what interested me most as a comedian was talking about more ordinary types of things and trying to find humor in them.
Did you always have an interest in comedy?
I always liked comedy — even when I was a kid — but I didn’t think about becoming a comedian until I was in college. Growing up in Miami, Florida, it’s not even on your radar screen that you can grow up and be a comedian. Hollywood might as well be on another planet, you know? but I listened to George Carlin and stayed up late to watch Johnny Carson. I remember being a junior in high school and going, “I love comedy, so therefore I’m going to be an accountant.”
What changed in college?
I started taking accounting classes and I said, “I hate accounting, so therefore I’m going to be a comedian.” the first time I remember being in a situation where I was supposed to make people laugh was a speech class I took in college. I remember standing in front of the class and giving a speech…and basically killing. Even in the teacher in the back was howling. I walked back to my dorm room after that and realized something had happened inside my body. I was like, “I don’t know what the hell that was, but that was thrilling.”
I’ve read you’re compulsive about tying your shoes onstage. have you ever watched the TED talk about the correct way to tie your shoes so they don’t come undone?
No. what is that? is that something online?
It’s a series of online lectures, and one guy goes over the correct way to tie your shoelaces, because apparently everyone ties them wrong.
I would like to check that out. I had my shoes come untied onstage a few years ago — and this is from a guy who reties his shoes before each show. I remember looking down and seeing my shoelaces flapping around and thinking, “I look like a buffoon up here!” Then I’m getting paranoid, like, “Are they laughing at my jokes or are they laughing at this goofball who doesn’t know how to tie his shoes?” We live in a world now where my kids don’t even have to tie their shoes. It’s a Velcro world. I’m wondering if when my son is going off to college I’m going to have to sit him down at the airport and go, “You know, son, there’s something I never did teach you…”
Are your kids old enough now where they can object to cropping up in your material?
My daughter, she’s 8 now, she was at one of my shows recently…and afterward she said she liked my show, but she’s not so comfortable with the jokes about her. I dropped ’em that night. I said, “You know, my daughter is more important to me than my comedy.” I didn’t want her feeling like I’m mining her and her brother for comedy. I want them to feel like our home life is our own private life, and she’s allowed to be silly and goofy without having daddy exploit it for three minutes onstage.
Did you ever meet the British soap actor who shares your name?
Oh boy. I have not. That was quite a shock when the story was forwarded to me. He was accused of murder or something like that, right?
He was accused of murdering his doorman. When that happened last April, did you have friends leaving you messages, like, “What have you done?”
(Laughs) Well, I was sent a copy of an Internet article that came out in England, and I had not heard of him. so I’m reading this thing and in there they say, “Brian Regan, not to be confused with the American comedian of the same name.” I talked to my manager that same day about it and said, “Hey man, that’s pretty cool they know who I am.” And he said, “Are you turning into an egomaniac? this is a murder story and you’re like, ‘Hey, at least they know who I am!’”