By Tom Scanlon
Brian Regan was deep in the heart of Texas early in his career, on his way from one low-paying comedy show to another. He was standing next to a road, waiting to catch a Greyhound bus — but wait, it gets worse.
“The bus pulls up, the door opens — and the bus driver just starts cracking up,” Regan recalled. “He said, ‘In all my time driving this route, no one has ever been at this stop.’ ”
But wait, it gets worse.
“There’s no seats left,” the driver told him. “But come on in.”
So, Regan was soon headed down the road on a hot, crowded bus. Sitting on the floor.
Here’s the thing about Brian Regan: He didn’t mind. Others might have said, “This is a sign — I’m done with this life; time to get a real job.” Not Brian Regan.
“I was just so happy to be doing comedy,” he recalled. “That’s all that mattered.”
He stuck with his gentle, goofy, PG-13 comedy and soon enough was able to buy a car to drive to shows across the country. As a young comic, he became a favorite of David Letterman, eventually making 28 appearances on “The Late Show.” He hooked up as the opening act for a Jerry Seinfeld tour a few years ago, warming up the audiences for the headliner. He took small satisfactions from that experience, recalling one show at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh.
“No one paid any attention to me,” Regan said. “They were all there to see Jerry — but I didn’t care. I couldn’t believe I was in this amazing theater.”
After graduating from Ohio’s Heidelberg University in the 1980s, Regan has been performing as a stand-up comic pretty much nonstop. In 2015, a New York Times article noted Regan is a “clean” comic who doesn’t need to curse on stage for cheap laughs. Instead, “he has a broadly accessible, archly observational style that was the signature of 1980s comedy. He makes mountains out of the mundane, poking fun at the directions on a box of Pop-Tarts and the clichés of post-game interviews.”
The Times noted Regan isn’t “edgy” enough for the likes of HBO. “But he’s been uncool so long that he’s become kind of cool.”
On Sept. 26, 2015, Regan proved just how cool he truly is — doing an hour-long show at Radio City Music Hall, broadcast live on Comedy Central. (It was the comedy network’s first live stand-up concert.)
Letterman has retired, so the indefatigable Regan has become a regular on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” where Regan jokes about things such as finding a giant hair shooting out above his nose. The laughs come when Regan acts out friends, wondering, “Has he seen it yet? How can he not see it?”
As Seinfeld commented, “Brian’s just a straight-up goofball.” That was when Regan guest-starred on Seinfeld’s web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” On the way to the Los Angeles cafe, Seinfeld picked up Regan in an $80,000 muscle car, a 1970 Dodge Charger T/A.
No more Greyhound rides for Brian Regan.
See Brian Regan live at the Paramount Theatre, Sunday, May 14, 7 p.m. Tickets are $45-$55, available at paramountvt.org or 802-775-0903. The Paramount Theatre is located at 30 Center St., Rutland.
Photo by Friedman Bergman