Saturday’s Brian Regan concert in the Johnny Mercer Theatre finds the standup comedian – one of the most genuinely funny performers on the road today – in a transitional period.
It’s been two years since Regan’s last DVD, The Epitome of Hyperbole (pronounced, doofily, just like it’s spelled). Of course, he’s spent those 24 months writing new material, performing it live in Anytown, U.S.A. (and on such televised venues as Comedy Central and Late Night With David Letterman, where he’s a frequent guest).
Soon to arrive is a live concert CD, as yet untitled, which has already been recorded.
The point here is that, if you know Brian Regan from The Epitome of Hyperbole (or his earlier DVD, I Walked on the Moon) he’ll have a few welcome surprises for you at Saturday night’s show. It has, after all, been two years.
The affable funnyman spoke to us from his home in Florida.
Since you don’t have any new “product” out, maybe people think you’re still doing all the old, familiar stuff.
Brian Regan: When I’m performing live, I try my best to start moving away from anything that’s recorded. It’s probably the opposite of what a band wants to do. Because in comedy, if they know the bits, it’s not quite as entertaining. People don’t mind hearing some stuff that they’ve heard before, but I think they want to hear new stuff. So I try to provide that for them.
I was doing a show recently, and I was feeling pretty good ‘cause I had done about a half an hour of stuff that I knew wasn’t “on” anything. But every once in a while, you’ve got to pull an old bit out as a transition into something else that’s new. A half hour of stuff I knew was virgin snow – and then I do this one bit that was on one of my DVDs, and some guy yelled out the punchline, real sarcastically. And I was like ‘What are ya, kidding me?’
Do you have dry spells?
Brian Regan: Yeah, but the good thing about standup that if you don’t write something that day, you still have your act from the previous day. It isn’t like you have to do a brand–new hour every single night. I don’t worry about that, because I know there are plenty of times when I feel fertile. Where I’m writin’ all kinds of stuff. And then there are times when nothin’s hitting me.
In fact, it’s weird when you don’t feel funny, and you’re not thinking of anything funny for a day or two. And you look in the mirror and go “Am I some kind of fraud?”
I imagine there’s some comfort in knowing you can pull out the greatest hits, as it were. Even if they’ve heard “I Walked on the Moon” before, you know it’s going to kill.
Brian Regan: Yeah, but I really resist it. When I come out to do my hour, I’m hoping that most of that stuff is from the last two years. I’ll come out and do another 10 minutes or so at the end – and that final 10 minutes is older stuff that people have heard, and I don’t mind at that point if they shout out requests and that sort of thing.
But I separate it. If my whole show was that, it would drive me crazy.
How close in real life are you to the person we see on the stage?
Brian Regan: It is me, but it’s a heightened, goofy version of me, do you know what I mean? I don’t want it to be like a cartoon or a buffoon onstage; I do want it to be like a guy that can come off as a real person. So it’s a version of me.
In fact when people who don’t know I’m a comedian meet me offstage, I hate telling them I’m a standup. Because I can be pretty low–key, and mild–mannered. If I’m sitting next to somebody on a plane, and they ask me what I do for a living, when I say I’m a comedian they look at me like I must be out of my mind.
Isn’t that when they say “OK, say something funny”?
Brian Regan: Yeah, and that’s when I say “Hang on, I gotta go see if I can find another seat.”
Do you have to turn it on every time, or can you just say “I’m not in the mood for chit–chat, pal”? Do you always have to be Charlie Charming in public?
Brian Regan: First of all, I’m not at a level where I have to deal with things that celebrities and stars have to deal with. I’m a below–the–radar kind of guy. It’s very weird – I’m proud to say I have a little bit of a following, but if I go to a mall or something the average Joe Blow has no clue who I am. So I’m fine when I’m hanging around with my family.
The Brian Regan onstage is kind of a sarcastic tool – I say that with all respect. If you’re out with your family, and you run into some obnoxious store or hotel clerk, can you turn that Brian on and let the guy have it?
Brian Regan: I’m not big on confrontation, so in my head I know what I wished I’d said. But that’s one cool thing about standup for me, it’s an outlet. I know that what I want to say to this hotel clerk – even though it ain’t happening here – I’m going to be saying it tomorrow night onstage. I’m going to vent my frustrations.
What’s really cool, too, is when you get a room full of people laughing you realize “All right, I’m not alone in this. Other people feel the same way as I do.”
Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Ogelthorpe Ave.
When: At 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2
Tickets: $39.50, $45 through etix.com