Everybody in my family is kind of funny,” says stand-up comedian Brian Regan, who comes to the Arlington on Sunday. Growing up as one of eight siblings, there was a lot of competition to crack each other up.
“I used to love making my dad laugh. He was a very smart guy, so if you put something together that had some ideas to it, he would laugh like it was nobody’s business. There was something very powerful about that experience. My older brother Mike is one of the funniest people I know. Offstage he’s funnier than I am.”
Mr. Regan even has an older brother, Dennis Regan, who also does stand-up and occasionally writes for TV. But Brian has gone on to have a successful career making people laugh. He’s been on late-night shows many times, hosted two specials for Comedy Central and released five comedy albums. He’s a “clean” observational comedian, combining domestic stories with surreal diversions.
He’s not one to go back and look at his old routines, he says, except for the other day, when he was checking out his various appearances on David Letterman, a faithful supporter of the comic.
“It’s weird for me — you have this mixture of feelings when you watch a set,” he says. “I don’t know if I’ve ever done a set that was perfect, you know? It’s like a round of golf. You’re not gonna have a birdie on every hole . . . So you tend to cringe, like wow, that joke wasn’t finished yet.” Things are harder now with people filming his sets in clubs, a common complaint of stand-ups, because that’s where he tries new material. It has pushed him to keep it new, though he will occasionally dip back into that past catalog.
When he was at college he drew a very rudimentary comic strip for his school’s paper, but after submitting it elsewhere and being rejected, he dropped it. He once remarked in an interview that at that time, he didn’t know how to ignore rejection. By the time he was trying out his new persona as a stand-up, things were a little different.
“There’s a lot of rejection when you start,” he says, “and you need a lot of passion to overcome it. You need a part of you that says I don’t care how often they don’t laugh, I feel that there’s something in here that eventually will work. I remember during my first year I had bad stretch, I would say like seven bad shows in a row. I was literally looking into the mirror at the little place I was living at and having a conversation with myself! I remember asking, ‘Are you delusional? Why do you think you can do this when people haven’t laughed at you for weeks straight?’ But another part of me said, ‘Well, they laughed at you two weeks ago; find whatever that was they were laughing at. And I went back onstage the next night and had a good show.”
Now he’s living in Las Vegas, with a 16-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter.
“(My kids) have to endure this really bad comedy off stage that is intentionally corny,” he says. “They get that it’s intentional, these horrible puns. But sometimes I feel they have to endure worse comedy than others without a funny dad.”
Did he pass on the Regan comedy gene?
“They both have that ability to make me laugh,” he says. “They both have their own perspective on things and that ability to throw things out there. It’s really pleasurable to listen to.”
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St.
Information: (805) 963-4408, www.thearlingtontheatre.com