- Friday, November 17, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
868 Fourth Avenue,
San Diegans love Brian Regan. It’s not often that a major comic works the same town twice in one year, but just a few months ago — Valentine’s Day, to be exact — Regan packed the Balboa Theatre. Locals will have to travel to catch his latest appearance on December 6 at the Pechanga Casino, but the laughter incurred is guaranteed to make for a jovial drive home.
When last we spoke, Regan had yet to crash Hollywood. Funny how a visit from Chris Rock has a way of leveling the playing field. Rock was so taken by his set that he offered Regan a part in his soon-to-be-released showbiz satire, Top Five. If only someone had the heart to clue Regan in.
Top Five Movie Trailer
Scott Marks: You refer to your latest comedy excursion as a “nonstop national tour.” How many of those nights on the road do you actually perform?
Brian Regan: I’m touring constantly. I’ve been on the road since 1984. [Laughing.] I don’t work every weekend. I’ll take my vacations. I basically work every other weekend. That’s the general rule of thumb. I’ll take a little time off here and there, but never more than two or three weeks at a time.
SM: One assumes that you spend a good chunk of your day looking for situations to incorporate into your set. Could you give me an example of a case that, at the time, had the makings of comic gold but didn’t translate well to standup?
BR: You have all these goofy little things in your notes that sometimes you think are going to work out and sometimes you’re not sure. I’m looking at my notepad now to see if there’s anything in there that I tried that didn’t quite fly. A while ago I found myself intrigued by three-way light bulbs and how somebody can just turn on a light, click it once and it’s brighter, and click it again and it’s even brighter. Wow!
I was trying to think of something silly along those lines and came up with a three-way handgun where the caliber keeps increasing as you fire. I don’t know if it was too horrific or what, but no one ever laughed at my three-way handgun joke. Then one day I opened the refrigerator and the light inside wasn’t working. Wouldn’t it be silly if there was a three-way light bulb in a refrigerator and you had to open the door three times in order to make it bright enough to pull some milk out? I did it onstage and it killed. So my three-way thing didn’t work as a gun joke, but it did work as a refrigerator joke. [Laughing.]
SM: How have your feelings toward the audience changed over the years?
BR: More and more lately, I’ve become very intrigued with jokes that only one person in the audience laughs at. But they laugh so hard that I wonder if I should keep it in for that one out of one hundred people. I’ll do a joke in front of an entire audience and nobody is onboard, except the one person who is howling. And it still makes me feel good for some reason — like, “Well, I connected over there.”
SM: Tell me a little something about your involvement in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
BR: I love doing it. I was honored to be one of the first ones that Jerry Seinfeld picked. I was a little nervous. After all, Jerry Seinfeld is a big deal. The fact that he wanted to do this with me meant a lot. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to rise to the occasion, any more than I knew what this thing really was. He picked me up at a hotel in Los Angeles and we drove around for about four hours. It felt great while we were doing it and the way they edited it together made me feel pretty good about it. I figured, it’s four hours of driving around. If they can’t get ten minutes out of this, they should just retire from this business.
SM: Siding with Letterman made you persona non grata on The Tonight Show. Now that Dave is retiring and Jay is out of the picture, have there been any nibbles from the Fallon camp?
BR: I just did another Letterman about two weeks ago. I kind of figured that may be my last one. I do one about every nine months. It’s a good question because I don’t know what direction to take after the Letterman show is over. [Laughing.] I worked with Jimmy Fallon years ago. I don’t know if he remembers who I am. Hopefully he knows who I am.
SM: I brought up the subject of movies when last we spoke. You said, “Movies are not something I go out of my way to pursue.” Did Top Five come knocking down your door?
BR: Well, I didn’t pursue it. [Laughing.] It was really weird the way it happened. It’s interesting how I recently began realizing that the people who help move me forward in this business are usually other comedians. I kind of felt that the entertainment media as a whole turned a blind eye to me. Jerry Seinfeld asked me to be in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and after that people were, like, “Hey, who is this guy?” I knew Chris Rock years ago in New York. We were both late-night crawlers trying to get onstage at 2 o’clock in the morning. Needless to say, his career exploded.
I was performing in New Jersey about a year ago when he came and saw my show. Afterwards, he stopped backstage and said hello. Three weeks later my manager calls and says that they wanted me to do an iPhone audition for a movie that Chris is doing. These days you audition by making a video on your iPhone. It’s so silly. I made a little video of the scene that they sent and then I didn’t hear anything for a month. My manager calls and says, “We’ve got to figure out travel to get you to go do the movie.” I was thinking, Something is out of order here. Aren’t they supposed to call and tell me I got the part so I can have that “Eureka!” moment where I jump up and down?
Not only did he make the final cut, he made the trailer!
I got the part. I was thrilled. I have never been in a movie before. I went to New York and decided after I shot it not to tell anybody. I was worried that I was going to get cut out. People who talk too much generally tend to get cut out, so I just laid low. The movie premiered at the Toronto film Festival. I sat down with my daughter and got on that IMDB, or whatever that thing is called, and I’m not listed in there! The woman who plays my assistant is in there and I’m not! I must’ve been pretty bad if they cut me out and left her in. You mean they kept the whole scene and just cut around me? I don’t even know how that’s possible.
So, I still have yet to tell anybody. My manager calls and says, “We’ve got to figure out how to get you to New York to do a photo shoot for the movie.” [Laughing.] He keeps forgetting to tell me that I’m in the movie. He just keeps jumping to travel.