"I'm very pleased with how things are going. I might have been more frustrated a number of years back before I could get the TV shows and stuff. I thought, Gosh, I think I'm at the point where I deserve a 5-minute spot on Letterman or The Tonight Show or something. But eventually it worked out. Maybe not in the exact time frame that I wanted but everything is going okay now and I'm thrilled with where I'm at. I love having a handful of people that seem to like what I do. It's a great feeling."
– Brian Regan
Guy MacPherson: Your clips online are amazing. I assume you would prefer that people would buy the product instead of watching online, but that’s today’s world, right?
Brian Regan: It is. I think five years ago or so my manager and I were trying to brainstorm ways of seeing what we could control and what we can't. Five years later we've come to the conclusion that we really can't control anything (laughs).
GM: I guess it helps in that it brings people out that might not otherwise see you if people are sharing these clips and then go, Hey, I wanna go see that guy when he's in town.
BR: Oh sure. There's definitely a benefit to it. But that still doesn't make it necessarily right that people view things for free. But I don't complain about it because the overall benefit outweighs the negative. I mean, so many people are aware of me because of the internet. In fact, it's gotten to the point where when people come up to me after shows, I hear that probably more than
television now: "I watch you on YouTube!" And you go, Wow, okay. (laughs) I thought TV was the way to get to the people, but now it's the computer.
GM: That's right. Because I do still see you on the talk shows but entertainment is so fractured now because there are so many channels, not to mention stuff online.
BR: Right, right.
GM: When we were kids, there were 13 channels and chances are everybody saw the one spot so the next day at work they can talk about it.
BR: Right, like The Tonight Show used to hold so much power back when Johnny Carson was hosting it. If you got on there and did well, that could be life-changing. Now shows like that are very important but they're just pieces of a bigger puzzle now.
GM: Have you been around long enough to have done Carson?
BR: I was fortunate enough. I got on about a year before he retired.
GM: Probably at that time there were other talk shows, too.
BR: Exactly. It was still a huge deal to do The Tonight Show and certainly a dream come true for me, but at that point cable was entering the picture, Arsenio was on, things were already starting to faction off, you know? So I think that show held a little less power than it did at its pinnacle, but it was still an incredible experience.
GM: Has there been a career moment like that for you where you felt like now you've made it?
BR: I think it's been more like a gradual thing. Sort of like a decent stock, I guess, where you just watch the graph over the years and it gradually comes a little bit more worthwhile. Maybe other comedians can make a bigger splash over a shorter period of time. I'm just not that type of comedian. It dawned on me when I was playing a game called Katamari, I think it's called, with my son. It's a computer game with this little ball that just rolls along and gradually picks up little things and the ball gets bigger and bigger and bigger and it starts picking up bigger things. That's the way my career has been, picking up fans. It's like this little ball that just keeps rolling along and every year I seem to have a few more fans, and a few more fans, and a few more fans. I like the direction that the ball is going and everything is good, but I've never had like this moment, this line in the sand where you go Wow, this is the delineation point between not successful and successful. It just hasn't been that way for me, anyway.
GM: A lot of the comics that come up big quickly don't have the same staying power. You have longevity.
BR: Yeah, I'm not complaining. I'm very pleased with how things are going. I might have been more frustrated a number of years back before I could get the TV shows and stuff. I thought, Gosh, I think I'm at the point where I deserve a 5-minute spot on Letterman or The Tonight Show or something. But eventually it worked out. Maybe not in the exact time frame that I wanted
but everything is going okay now and I'm thrilled with where I'm at. I love having a handful of people that seem to like what I do. It's a great feeling.
GM: Do you think it's made you a better comic because you've had time develop in smaller settings?
BR: Well, I hate to ever sound self-serving in an interview but a couple of things that I try to do that seems to work out for me is I try to keep writing. I try to just keep replenishing and replenishing. In fact, that's one of my favourite compliments when people see me and they go, Man, we saw you a year and a half ago and most of the stuff tonight we didn't see previous
times. I'm like, Great! And I also try to avoid having everything come from one perspective. I think a lot of comedians work towards a hook or angle and I try to work away from that. As soon as I read, like, more than three articles that define me a certain way, I start writing away from that, you know? I don't want to be like a one-trick pony. So I try to keep my options open and talk about things that are important to me at this point in my life. For a while it was like, Brian Regan's the guy who always feels like an idiot on stage or the guy who always crouches around on stage. I like that, and I was proud of that, but I don't want to be just that.
GM: Most of the articles now always bring up the fact you work clean – and I wasn't even going to bring that up – but that's not something you're going to go away from, is it?
BR: I can't run away from it. (laughs)
GM: Right, but that's not something you're going to read and go, Okay, I'm going to show them this time.
BR: That's true. Although (laughs) I joke around with other comedians. I say I would love to do a special on TV where I come out on stage and I'm wearing a sweat shirt that has the f-word on it and a hat that has the f-word on it and the backdrop is just a big curtain that has the f-word on it but do my act completely clean and just say, "Let people write their stories now! Now what are they going to write about?!"
GM: Or better yet, don't even draw attention to it.
BR: (laughs) Still do my act without cursing at all. Go, "The word's there if you need it, folks."
"I'm no fool! I'm not going to leave a stage a fifth time! Only
idiots do that!"
– Brian Regan
GM: Can I ask you about the Just For Laughs situation? About the time at a gala where you came out, left and came back. I keep hearing about this story but have never heard your take on it.
GM: So it is true?
BR: It is true.
GM: Because I thought maybe you were doing it as a joke or something.
BR: No. No, I wish. I mean, there are some people who say, "Was that like a performance art kind of piece?" I guess I could take the easy way out and go, "Yeah, people just didn't seem to get it." But it wasn't at all. (laughs) It was a disaster is what it was! An absolute disaster. I remember all four moments. I can actually defend every time I walked offstage and came back on but I guess in hindsight it sounds ridiculous. Ultimately, to make a long story short, it was one of the worst nights of my career.
BR: Oh, yeah. That night I was so embarrassed and everything. I talked to my manager. This isn't like bombing at a corporate gig where nobody knows and you lick your wounds and go up to your hotel room; this is bombing in front of the comedy community! (laughs) I said, "I just feel
horrible about this." He said, "You know what you ought to do?" – and I give him a lot of credit for this – he goes, "You ought to walk right downstairs" to where the bar was where everybody congregated at each night at the Delta, and he goes, "Just hang out. Have fun." And so I did that. I went down there. Everybody came up. Everybody wanted to talk about it. It was the talk of the festival! But at least I was there laughing it off. Hopefully I have a decent enough reputation amongst comedians where it wasn't a career killer, but it was about as close to a career killer as you could get without actually going down.
GM: When was it?
BR: It was about ten years ago.
GM: And obviously it didn't affect you.
BR: I don't know if it affected me at all but in my mind it certainly was an ouch moment, you know?
GM: Was it just that you flubbed a line? Why did you keep starting over?
BR: Well, the initial reason why I left the stage was Dame Edna was the emcee, the host, and she came out – he... she... I don't know what the politically correct way of saying it is – her character came out and did a lot of self-deprecating stuff saying, "Yes, it's truly me, it's truly me! Can you believe it? Yes, I'm right here before your very eyes! It actually is me!" And the crowd was going nuts. They loved the character. I was the very first comedian after her. I was the first comedian that she introduced. So she introduced me and I came out. And I thought I would be self-deprecating and make fun of myself, so I said, "Yes, it's truly me!" You know, like a little call-back to what she did. "It's truly me! Yes, can you believe it?! I'm actually here!" And they did not laugh at all. No one laughed. It just bombed. So in my mind I'm thinking, Wait a sec, maybe they thought I was making fun of her. Which wasn't my intention. I was trying to make fun of me! So
then I got into my bit. I just started getting into my routine and it got nothing. Like, literally nothing! I'd never heard silence be so loud in my life. It was getting like nothing. I was like, How is this happening? And then I started getting paranoid thinking they must have thought that I was slamming her and now they just collectively don't like me.
GM: All these things just racing through your head.
BR: Oh, my gosh, my brain was just trying to figure things out and all of that. One time before in my career I had stopped a taping when I had flubbed a line and got off stage and came back out and redid it and killed. So I had that little red flag in my head going, "You know what I'm going to do? I'm gonna try that trick!" So I said, "Hey, folks..." I didn't want to try to over-explain it with the Dame Edna thing, so I said, "I think I messed up here. I messed up a line." I kind of white-lied it. So I left the stage, came back out and didn't do the "Yes, can you believe it's me?" stuff. I just went into the bit. And then they still didn't laugh at all! (laughs) They didn't laugh one bit.
GM: They were in shock. What did he just do?
BR: Yeah, I think they were stunned. Like, nobody knew what was going on. My manager, who I saw briefly backstage when I ran off, didn't know what was going on. Everybody was looking at me strange when I left the stage. So now I'm out there and I'm thinking, "They're still not laughing." So I stopped it that time and I said, "Oh, folks, just try to react naturally. You know, normally." Now I'm scrambling.
GM: "Laugh, dammit!"
BR: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I said, "Oh, this is for a TV thing. I know it's weird that I started again but if you could just laugh normally and it'll all be cool. Alright, I feel like a moron. I'll be back in a second." So I left the stage for the second time. I run back out and I start doing the routine again. Now they start laughing like sarcastically over-the-top. I said, "Hey, I'm Brian" and "Ahaha!" and huge applause. Now I'm thinking this is a nightmare. If anybody watched the tape, they're not going to show the first two, I'm thinking. So I stopped again, the third time, and said, "You know what, folks? I know you're trying to help me out and I appreciate it but this is for a TV thing so no one's going to understand why you're laughing like that, over-the-top. So just try to react normally." So I left the stage again! (laughs) And then I came back. Now this is my fourth time on stage. And now the audience, I'm sure, is like, "the hell with this guy!" So I started the bit again and they just stared at me for the entire time. I'm no fool! (laughs) I'm not going to leave a stage a fifth time! Only idiots do that! (laughs) So I stayed out there and bombed. Got nothing for my ten, twelve minutes and then just said goodnight and walked off to the most tepid applause I've ever heard in my life! (laughs) I was shell-shocked. I was absolutely shell-shocked.
GM: That's a great story. Maybe they put you on the French gala and they just didn't understand you.
BR: (laughs) Yeah, I wish!
GM: Did you ever think of defending it as some people thought, that it was performance art?
BR: No. I'm too honest. I like to live and die on my sword, or whatever that expression is. That
actually happened so I just try to explain it honestly to people if they were curious. It was a tough deal, man. And I worried that it could have been a career killer at the time. But it ended up just a little bump in the road but it didn't hurt overall.
GM: Have you played Europe?
BR: I have not. I would love to go. I'm curious as to how I would be received over there. I have a friend, Eddie Brill, who gave me contact information for people who book stuff over in Ireland or England, I forget which. It was years ago. He said, "Give the guy a call. He said, I told them a little bit about you. I think he'd love to bring you over." So I was like, Great! And I called the guy and I just got his machine – this was years ago when answering machines were in play. I left a message and then right when I hung up I realized that I called the guy at like 3:30 in the morning (laughing) in his time. I didn't stop and do the math. And the guy never called me back (laughs). He probably thought either this guy is too rude or too dumb to bring over here.
GM: You know what you should have done? You should have called back immediately, and called four times.
GM: "I'm sorry, I just realized it was 3:30 your time."
BR: And explained every time! "The reason I'm calling a fourth time is I don't want you to think I'm an idiot..."
GM: A lot of Canadian and American comics go over there and develop quite a following. I would imagine you would kill.
BR: I would like to try it. I would also like to try Australia.
GM: You have an amazing following considering you don't have regular TV exposure. The last time we spoke I think you said you had a development deal with Comedy Central.
BR: That is correct. But it kind of came and went. That's sort of the nature of the beast. I pitched some ideas but nothing ever really got off the ground. It didn't pan out. But in the meantime I get less and less concerned about a TV thing because this is what I like to do. I like doing stand-up. If I were to do a TV show, I would want it to be about the comedy. I'm not interested in any way in the fame, so to speak. That doesn't intrigue me. I like people liking the comedy. So I'm kinda waiting for a situation like that.
GM: Even with comics that people liked as comics, once they get a series they're open to way more criticism. I'm thinking of Ray Romano, who was hilarious. Granted, he's laughing all the way to the bank. But people see the series and go, "That's horrible. That guy's not funny."
BR: That's what I want to try to avoid. I don't want to incorrectly take advantage of where I'm at and get into something that doesn't reflect how I think as a comedian. The only way I would do it is if it were my comedy in a different form. Seinfeld had the best analogy. He goes, if you're going
to build a show around a comedian, you gotta take what they do as a comedian and pour it into another container. It's the same comedy just in a different container. And if you don't do that properly it's not going to be so good.
GM: I heard you on the Comedy and Everything Else podcast. I haven't heard you on others. Did you just do that one because they're your buddies?
BR: Yeah, they're all good friends and they had asked me a number of times. Not that I ever said no; it just wasn't working out. And then I heard through the grapevine that they mentioned me
on, like, every one of their podcasts. At first, by coincidence, they had mentioned me on the first
three and then as a gag they tried to work it in where they mentioned me on every podcast. And so how can you not say yes to people that are talking you up on every single one of their
podcasts? (laughs) You have to go on and be a guest. I was very flattered that they wanted me.
GM: There are so many comedy podcasts now. And I love a lot of them. If you're a fan of comedy, it's great to hear actual conversations that are also funny, as opposed to seeing a panel spot on a talk show where you have to hit the laughs pretty hard.
BR: Anything other than stand-up to me is not in my comfort zone. When I'm on stage by myself with a microphone, I know what I'm doing and I know what I'm supposed to be doing. Once you get me out of that world, and it's more of a conversation, I feel so much less in control. And I never know if I'm doing well or not. I'm so addicted to laughs, I guess. Not addicted, but I know that laughs equals success when you're on stage. When you're having a conversation and there's no audience listening, I have no way of knowing if what I'm saying is interesting or funny or
downright boring. It's weird doing radio interviews and stuff like that or podcasts. It's like, is this any good at all? Is this terrible? I don't know.
GM: Are you kind of anti-social? Does your wife have to drag you out to parties?
BR: Not to the point of crippling shyness but I'd rather just kinda hang out at home than go to a party. I'm not overly comfortable at a party. A party to me is like a pinball game, man. It's like bing, bing, bing. You're bouncing around, you're dealing with things. It's so much easier to be on
stage by yourself, you know? I can handle that.
"There's a heightened expectancy, I think, when you're a
comedian at a social gathering. So sometimes I tend to kind
of be a little quieter than I normally would be because I don't
feel like putting on a show."
– Brian Regan
GM: Do you think that's partly because you're a successful comedian because people are going to expect more from you?
BR: Well, I think I was always naturally a little shy, but probably more so now because I'm a comedian. Because it does get awkward when people introduce you as a comedian. I've always been intrigued when someone is introducing a bunch of people to each other at a gathering and for some reason my occupation gets thrown in with my name when no one else's occupation is thrown in. It's like, "Suzy, this is Fred, Fred this is Tom, Tom this is Sally, Sally this is Rex, Rex this is Joe, and everybody this is Brian, he's a comedian!" Now everyone focuses on me because I'm a
comedian? Where are the other people's occupations?
GM: "This is Rex, he works at the post office."
BR: Yes! So there's a heightened expectancy, I think, when you're a comedian at a social gathering. So sometimes I tend to kind of be a little quieter than I normally would be because I don't feel like putting on a show.
GM: I see your schedule looks pretty full. How many weeks a year do you work?
BR: The rough way of looking at it is, there's 52 weeks in a year; I try to work half of them. I have a wife and two kids and the family thing is very important to me so I like to be home half the time. And even those weeks when I work, it's only four out of the seven days. So I'm home more than I'm away.
GM: I try to work half the year, too.
BR: Yeah! It doesn't always fall into that exact formula. I get corporate gigs thrown my way and things like that.