After almost 40 years as a comedian, Brian Regan is still inarguably one of the most jovial, likable stage presences out there. His reputation as a “clean comic” has damaged his credibility amongst coastal audiences these days, but he remains a heartland favorite, and it’s easy to see why when watching Stand Up and Away!, his hybrid stand-up/sketch series for Netflix.
The format of the show essentially adapts the Chapelle Show and Key & Peele format to be more stand-up specific. Regan performs bits before throwing to video that either continues the premise of the bit or goes in its own direction. To do this, he enlists the help of his “floor producer” Beth Triffon, a winning presence who is given an impossible job in the context of the show.
Triffon essentially acts as the sidekick here, but the problem is that in a show that needs to go from stand-up to interjection to sketch, the interjections from Triffon are doomed to feel inorganic, despite her best efforts. Stand-up of the Regan variety often hinges on the suspension of disbelief that these are off-the-cuff observations, and this is undercut by the format of the show, which reveals the seams of the narrative in spite of itself.
That said, Regan’s gentle presence doesn’t necessarily impede the material. In the first episode, he turns his iconic Dad-ish energy towards the cockiness of Neil Armstrong at cocktail parties (interjecting in another conversation with “that reminded me, once I was driving in the Sea of Tranquility…”), or a hearing aid that markets itself by noting you’ll be able to hear other people whispering (“they didn’t invent whispering for compliments”).
This energy floats the show most of the time, but can’t dig it out of a format that just lacks enough focus to really get going.
Graham Techler is a New York-based writer and comedian. You’d be doing him a real solid by following him on Twitter @grahamtechler or on Instagram @obvious_new_yorker. A real solid.