Brian Regan talks Jerry Seinfeld, Letterman and Justin Bieber, naturally
Say hello to the greatest comedian you’ve (possibly) never heard of.
Brian Regan has been a comedian for nearly 40 years and is a household name in his native US, where he clocked up a mind-boggling 28 appearances on the iconic Late Show With David Letterman. Another titan of US comedy, Jerry Seinfeld, has hailed Regan as his favourite stand-up (and there’ll be more on Jerry later).
Regan’s style is unique and invariably positive. He’s never punching down. Indeed, as the wide-eyed optimist, Brian is invariably looking up. Think of the physicality of a young Jim Carrey, the madcap stylings of fellow “clean” comedian Harry Hill, the flights of fancy of red-hot James Acaster and sheer swagger of 1970s-era Steve Martin and you’re still probably not doing the great man justice.
You lucky people can see him live in London on Saturday 2 February (and you really must), and BALANCE caught up with the 60-year-old to attempt to get inside a very special mind…
I WAS IN THE AUDIENCE WHEN YOU APPEARED ON LETTERMAN WITH JUSTIN BIEBER IN 2011…
Well, I can throw this in! On that performance, when I came out to do my stand-up and during the set, I heard all this cheering from outside and thought, “What’s going on?!” And I realised Justin Bieber had just left the building! I had to make a split-second decision: will the cameras pick this up, or not? I chose to ignore it, and I’m glad I did: when you watched it back, you couldn’t hear them, so I’d have sounded like a moron.
YOU AND THAT SHOW HAD A SPECIAL CHEMISTRY…
I was very honoured to do the show. Every comedian looks up to Letterman. To do it first was a thrill; to be invited back was even bigger. Because then you’re like, “Wow – I must have done OK.” I then found out from the show’s writers that he liked my humour… When I was out doing my stand-up, Letterman had such a distant laugh; it was almost a cackle. And I could hear him from his desk. You almost want to stop, look into the camera or at the audience, and go, “I could care less about the rest of you!”
HA HA! THE BRITISH COMEDIAN JAMES ACASTER IS A BIG FAN. DITTO SEINFELD AND BILL HICKS WAS A FAN. THAT’S A LOVELY THING: BELOVED BY BOTH CROWDS AND ACTS
It’s very humbling. I didn’t seek that out; I just tried to do my own thing. I was always careful to never do anything that’s hack. It’s frowned upon and not interesting. Along the way I guess I gathered respect from other comedians, and that means the world, especially when they’re 180 degrees from what I do.
HOW EXCITING IS IT TO COME TO LONDON?
I’ve never really ventured that far from the US. I’ve toured the US my whole career, with a bit of Canada more recently. I’m now at a point in my life where I want to experience new things. When I first went out on the road, every new state I’d perform in I’d think, “Is this the state where they’re going to stare at me?” And then I’d go, “Well, I guess they like me in Georgia.” So I don’t know yet about London! Believe me: there’s that fear in the back of my head…
NOW, THIS JERRY SEINFELD STORY WITH YOUR NETFLIX SHOW STAND UP & AWAY – WHAT HAPPENED THERE?
Seinfeld and I know each other from before he had his TV show. He was a comedy god even before the TV show. He saw me perform in New York, said some nice things and then I was opening for him occasionally on the road. And then he got his TV show and turned into a superstar. He then contacted me a couple of years ago after a live comedy special of mine. He had nice things to say, then said he felt I should have a TV show. I was trying to count the goosebumps on my body. I pitched him an idea, he liked it and went to Netflix. That’s how we got it. Now, I know we got the show because of Jerry Seinfeld, and that’s fine with me. To go into a pitch meeting with him sitting next to you is one of the best experiences ever. No matter what they asked me, all I had to do was point and say, “That’s Jerry Seinfeld!”
OH MY GOD!
I feel the same way!
IT’S JUST A NICE THING FOR A HUMAN BEING TO DO
Absolutely. It’s not like he needs the money. He has more than anyone would ever need.
*BALANCE IS WIPING AWAY TEARS OF LAUGHTER* HE’S DONE ALL RIGHT, HASN’T HE?
He’s doing OK. In fact, when we met I said, “Those are nice shoes. You must be doing pretty well.” Look, he is doing things in his career now that he enjoys, and said he’d enjoy shepherding me having a show.
SO, IS THE PLAN TO KEEP COMING BACK TO BRITAIN?
It depends how it goes. I want to do it just to experience it. I’m usually optimistic about these things. My plan is to branch out and play more around the world.
YOU SAY ‘OPTIMIST’ – YOU’RE ALSO AN OPTIMIST OFF-STAGE, AREN’T YOU?
I try to be. What a lot of people in comedy lose sight of is the point of view. I like to have the point of view that life is pretty good. Sure, there are goof-ups and sometimes I feel stupid and sometimes other people are stupid. But overall it’s a fun ride. That’s part of – hopefully – why people get into what I do because I try to make it like a rollercoaster ride. It’s fun. I like to think that life is OK, and I like my comedy to reflect that.