Stand-up comic Brian Regan has built a career out of universal appeal, but the "everyman" comic still gets mistaken for Jim Gaffigan (and whoever does a joke about boullouin cubes) when he's out with his daughter in public.
But that's just one of the tidbits Regan shared with me over the phone ahead of his appearance on A Garden Of Laughs, a benefit show at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 26. where Regan will perform alongside Adam Ferrara, Darrell Hammond, Robert Klein, Brian Regan, Ray Romano and Wanda Sykes to raise money for children in need through the Garden of Dreams Foundation. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.
How stand-up has changed since you started?
“Stand-up’s sort of like music in that it is ever evolving. Certain styles come in and go out, and it’s not as easy to define comedy styles as with music, like reggae or country. Comedy is more elusive in terms of description, but there is a lot more autobiographical honesty in comedy these days, not that we aren’t doing other stuff, but there wasn’t too much of that earlier, it was mostly observational.”
You have a really broad audience, age-wise. Do you purposefully try to make your jokes accessible to all?
“I’m not looking for a particular audience. I do what I do and if they like it, great. I think it's coincidental that my comedy reaches people of all ages. I had a group of younger people come backstage once and they brought their grandma. She liked the show and asked me, “How long have you been in Vaudeville?” I said “I guess since about 1910!”
Have you had any other funny encounters with fans?
“I love when people come up to you and get you mixed up with someone. Most people get the hint but some people just keep going. I had a guy come up to me and say, ‘I loved your boullion cube bit,’ and I told him I didn’t have one, but he said, ‘Yes you do and I love it.’ So I just said ‘OK, glad you liked it.’ I’ve learned over the years if they liked the bit, I just agree. Once in a while I listen to XM radio to see if I can find out whose joke it is.”
It sounds like it could be a Jim Gaffigan joke, maybe.
“Actually, one time I was at an aquarium and a couple came up to me and said they liked my comedy. I was with my daughter so I was kind of proud. Then the wife said to me, ‘There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t jokingly say ‘Hot Pockets’ to ourselves and laugh.’ The husband cringed, but I didn’t mind. I think Jim Gaffigan is great and sometimes people mix things up.”
How do you feel about Twitter as a comedian?
“I don’t use it as much as other comedians do. In fact, early on when i get to 10,000 followers, I had only tweeted four times. That has to be some kind of record. Then when I started doing it more, my management would tweet for me with language I’d never use. Stuff like, ‘Hey groovy cats, I’ll be in your neck of the woods this weekend. Come check out my chuckles!’. I’m trying to get better at it, but my bits are longer-form. They’re not as conducive to Twitter as other comics’ ways of thinking are. Some people live their career day-in and day-out, but I don’t like to do that. When I’m home with my kids I want to take my comedy hat off and just be a daddy. I like being a comedian but I like not being a comedian sometimes.”
Are there any new comics on your radar whose material you’ve been liking?
“I’m not in the comedy clubs the way I used to be where you are exposed to a lot of new comedians, but I want to be. Bill Burr, he’s not new, but I don’t think he’s as big as he can ultimately be. I saw him do a set at Comedy Works in Denver and was blown away. He just does a really cool, interesting kind of comedy. It’s fun to watch somebody grab the reins and do their own thing with their own tone. I like watching Maria Bamford, who’s also been around for a while. I’m enthralled watching her. It’s so wonderful that there are people out there commandeering new comedic perspectives.”
Are you close with any of the other comics doing the Garden Of Laughs benefit?
“Between Ray, Rob and Wanda, it feels pretty cool to be in that kind of company. Ray and I are pretty good friends. We started around the same time in NYC and met at the Comedy Cellar in the village. I haven’t gotten anywhere else yet, but I’ve cheered him on as he became a super-duper-mega star [laughs.] The only name on that lineup I don’t recognize is mine. It'll be a night of stars and less. When I hit the stage, I think people are going to go, 'Oh, when this guy’s done Ray Romano comes out.'"