Read the transcript of the Deseret News interview with Brian Regan here.
Five minutes of comedy is all Brian Regan’s kids get.
When the stand-up comic takes his children on the road, which happens quite frequently, Dad doesn’t want his 13-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter watching more than five minutes of his shows each night.
He’s not screening them from anything. In fact, Regan is well-known for his brand of family appropriate humor.
He simply doesn’t want his kids to “burn out” on his comedy. After all, they’re an important audience.
“When I get off stage and they quote something that’s relatively new, it just means the world to me,” Regan said. “ … It means a lot to me to have my kids like what I do. And that’s why I limit them. But I don’t want to put that pressure on them to be a fan of mine. I want them to think I’m Daddy. I don’t want them to think of me as Daddy the comedian.”
This funny man, who has more than 20 appearances on “The Late Show with David Latterman” to his credit, takes stand-up very seriously. He’s also serious about staying grounded and helping his children lead a normal life — even as they join him on trips around the country to sold-out theaters.
“When I’m on the road with them, what’s more important to me than the show is going back to the hotel afterward and reading them a story and tucking them in bed,” he said.
Regan’s upcoming 10-show engagement at Salt Lake City’s Abravanel Hall, from Jan. 18-28, is one way to quantify his enormous popularity in Utah. The four originally planned performances quickly became 10, which Regan acknowledges is unusual. He recognizes that there is “a community in Utah that gravitates towards cleaner comedy,” but he hopes that’s not the only reason ticket sales are brisk.
“I’d like to think that it’s more than that, because I’m not the only clean comedian out there,” he said. “I’d like to feel that in addition to being clean, it’s also funny. I tell people that an empty stage for an hour is clean. People aren’t buying tickets for that.”
Regan doesn’t give the “clean comic” label a big, warm embrace because it was never a deliberate decision to target clean-leaning audiences. He’s not “Mr. Wholesome,” he says, and he can’t claim to have never told a joke with a four-letter word. He’s simply focused on humor that interests him — and it happens to be clean.
Regan had a validating experience recently when a friend from college gave him an old tape of the two performing a mock interview where they each played a character — filmed long before Regan had any aspirations of being a comedian. As he watched, he notice his friend taking the conversation in a darker, dirtier direction. Regan noticed himself steering it back to the more “absurd, conceptual kind of stuff.”
“And it interested me listening to this stuff, going, ‘Wow, that was my instinct even before I knew I wanted to be a comedian,’” he said. “So it comforted me to think, ‘Well, alright, then I’m going after my true path. It isn’t like I’ve chosen this for career reasons. I’ve chosen it because it’s what interests me.’ It was very gratifying to listen to that.”
Regan consistently refers to stand-up as an art form, referencing elements like cadence and delivery and emphasizing the need to keep the routines fresh and explore new avenues. He calls “clean” his medium.
“I just do what I like to do, and if there are people out there who happen to also like it, then all the better,” Regan said. “I just like it as a comedic choice. It’s sort of like a photographer might choose to work in black-and-white as opposed to color.”
While he’s committed to his art form, he also tries to live a “non-show business life.” In fact, Regan won’t perform close to home.
“I don’t want to be a comedian when I’m at home,” he said. “I don’t want people who know me talking about tickets. … I want to talk about my kids learning how to ride their bikes. I want to live a normal life and I want my kids to have a normal life.”
Normal for Regan is taking kids to a fast food place or going to the mall.
“It’s always a little weird when that bubble gets popped, when somebody might recognize me and come up and go, ‘Hey, wow, Brian Regan,’” he said. “And I’m not even in that frame of mind. I’m just thinking, ‘I’m just buying my daughter some socks.’”
Regan has learned that kids help keep him grounded. He remembers being at Disneyland with his daughter and waiting in line for the California Screamin’ roller coaster. As they got to the front of the line, the ride returned and a woman fell on her knees hyperventilating. Later, he was telling others a grand story about the horrified woman and how he tried to comfort his daughter. She then informed him, “Daddy, I never even saw that lady.”
“She kind of brought that back to reality,” Regan said. “It’s like, ‘Daddy, that might be a funny story that you’re telling, but it has nothing to do with what actually happened.’ So it’s interesting. They have a way of grounding you and making sure that you don’t go off on a tangent that’s too silly or untruthful.”
Kids and family life can be a great source of humor, but Regan says he doesn’t want them “to feel like I’m following them around with a notebook.
“I want them to just be able to be kids and be themselves and feel like they have a certain amount of privacy,” he said. “I don’t want them feeling like all of their behavior and everything they say can ultimately be on display so Daddy can get another album together.”
There’s one more benefit that comes from trying to keep things normal at home: Perspective, Regan says, helps with the humor.
“The more successful you get, I think, the more it can ruin the comedy,” he said. “You don’t want to be doing comedy about limos and private jet captains. People in the audience go, ‘What the heck’s going on here?’”