When Brian Regan calls me for our phone interview, we start with the usual pleasantries. Hellos are exchanged and I ask him, “How are you doing today?” He answers, “I’m doing great, man. I got a fresh pot of coffee. I’m about to pour half a cup out that’s not hot enough for my taste. I’m pouring some hot coffee. I wish I had something more exciting to share with you, but this is all that’s going on in my world.”
That is probably one of the most specific (and best) answers I’ve ever gotten to a “How are you?” It’s reflective of Regan’s personality and comedy. He’s honest, very gracious with his answers and very observational. This is also apparent when he asks me about my name:
“I’m just curious about the name,” says Regan. “I don’t know if it was written up phonetically or if that’s how you spell it.”
“What, Dino?” I answer.
“It says here: Dino, D-I-N-O hyphen R-A-Y. That’s one name correct?” he continues.
I laugh, “Yeah, my name is Dino-Ray Ramos. It’s half of my grandfather’s name and my dad’s Americanized name. I’m Filipino, so they like doing that kind of stuff, like combining names.”
“All right,” he says, “I don’t know if my publicist heard you say it over the phone, and just said ‘I don’t know how to write this’ and wrote it out phonetically or if that was the actual spelling.”
“Yeah, it’s Dino-Ray.”
“Anyway, I’m sorry to throw a question your way that you’ve probably had to answer 57,000 times.”
Currently on the second leg of his 49-city 2014 North American tour, he’s a very thorough man and I knew this would be a great conversation. He took some time out of his schedule to talk about his funny family, the science of funny and being one of the first guests on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”
Paste: Did you come from a funny family?
Brian Regan: Everybody in my family is funny. There’s my mom, dad and eight kids. My mom and dad are both funny. My oldest brother, Mike, who doesn’t even do stand-up, I think he’s the funniest guy on the face of the earth. We just all make each other laugh. We didn’t grow up thinking any of us would be comedians.
Paste: Do you remember your very first comedy set?
Regan: There was the first time I tried it where I was introduced as a comedian…and then there was the first time I did it at a comedy club. The first time I did it where I was introduced as a comedian was when I was in college. I went to Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, and I used to emcee college activities. I would introduce the basketball players and introduce the cheerleaders. I would make that stuff funny.
But one night I decided I’m going to try to do comedy and define it as such. So in a campus bar, they had comedy night. It was just me. I went on stage in front of, I don’t know, 40 or 50 fellow students, and it didn’t work out. It was very strange. Because there’s a fictional quality to comedy. I remember being on stage and trying to get into bits. I’d be like, “Hey, so I was on a bus this morning” and my friends are in the audience going, “No, you weren’t.”
Paste: When you’re writing, what is your litmus test on what material will work and won’t work?
Regan: The interesting thing to me about comedy is that you never know. I can’t think of something and know that it will work in front of an audience. I can have a feeling about it. I can think, “Wow, this feels pretty funny to me.” This gets into the science of comedy, and I grapple with this. It’s like, what’s funny? If only one person in the world thinks something is funny and the other 8 billion in the world don’t think it’s funny, does that mean it’s not funny?
Paste: Yeah. The science of it all is interesting.
Regan: If one person somewhere thinks something’s funny, then it is. Now it might not be funny enough to end up in someone’s act. To be a successful comedian, you need other people to agree with you that what you think is funny. I just will just think of stuff but the only way I’m going to know if it’s going to end up in my act is to get on stage and throw it out there.
Sometimes they laugh and sometimes they don’t. If they do, it feels great. If they don’t, sometimes you don’t want to give up on it. You go, “Well, maybe I didn’t communicate it properly” or you noodle it around and try it a handful of times. Then if it just continues to not work, it usually just falls by the wayside and you stop doing it.
To answer your question, I don’t know. When I come up with something, I don’t know whether audiences will think it’s funny or not. I have a gut feeling, but just no way of knowing for sure.
Paste: How was your “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” experience?
Regan: It was a blast. First of all, I was in the first group of comedians that he did, and I was honored. When I heard the names that were involved, I was like, “Wow. Why is he reaching out to me?” [laughs] It meant everything to me. When I shot mine, there weren’t any on the Internet yet. So there wasn’t anything to look at to get a feel for what this was. It was a little scary. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew he just wanted to get in the car and have really nothing planned. I basically just got in the car and we just started talking.
It was fun, but there was also a little bit of a fear factor, like, where is this going? Am I going to be able to come up with something interesting enough to end up on this thing? Fortunately it came out pretty good and I’ve had some nice comments about it. But yeah, it was, I guess like a roller coaster. Fun and scary at the same time.
Paste: When you perform, do you still get nervous?
Regan: It depends. If the audience is there to see me, if they got a ticket and it has my name on it, then I don’t really get nervous, because I feel like they wouldn’t be here unless they already knew something about me. But if they’re holding a ticket that says other reason than Brian Regan on it…then I get nervous. I may or may not convince them that I’m funny.
Paste: When you travel to various cities in the country, what kind of differences do you see in the audiences?
Regan: When I’m doing my shows, I notice it a little bit, but audiences throughout the country, they’ll ride your ride if you get the job done. To me, the difference is in the length of the fuse. You go to Minneapolis and people are just incredibly nice and they just have a really long fuse. If you don’t get them laughing for 15 minutes, they’re still looking at you politely. But if you go to Philadelphia, it’s just a shorter fuse. They’ll laugh, but if they’re not laughing in a minute and a half, they’re going to let you know about it.
For tour dates and more info on Brian Regan visit BrianRegan.com.