Brian Regan broods. He ruminates, ponders and obsesses on topics, even mundane things like cutting in line and small talk at parties. The Regan rabbit hole is long and exponentially absurd. If he didn’t channel his maniacal focus into comedy, he could be the crazy guy who scribbles conspiracy theories across walls. But he does and we’re glad.
At the Music Hall at Fair Park on Friday night, Regan packed in 2,900 fans so familiar they could yell out names of bits as encore requests. He started out at a moderately high level of energy and stayed there, prompting a continual percolation of chuckles and deep laughs. No shocks and surprises, nor a whole lot of guffaws, yet a reliably funny guy every minute of the way.
The comic presents a carefully pitched blend of humor devoid of meanness, crudeness, cursing or sexual bravado, and barely any references to topical events. He did four funny minutes just on ironing boards. Regan’s the perfect date-night comic and phenomenally popular in Mormon-heavy Utah and at family-friendly resorts.
Regan’s not a revealing person; his is not inside-out comedy. He’s a quintessential observer in the Seinfeldian mode. (Regan opened for Seinfeld in the early years.) Regan: “Catch of the day. Why is it always fish? Don’t we catch cows?” He mused on the weirdness of friends named Winston and making dates in movies — “OK, I’ll pick you up at 8” — versus the real complexities of Byzantine scheduling and elaborate directions.
While other comics dip into profanity and sex to get quick laughs and pump up the energy, Regan relies on physicality. Bits and routines often involve exaggerated enactments, weird walks, odd postures and an abundance of Carlinesque facial expressions. All of that laced with the weirdest array of sounds and warped words that at times brings to mind barking seals or baying dogs.
Regan’s a craft comic, teaching himself the trade from the ground floor starting as a comedy club bus boy. He’s expressed no interest in sitcom or movie roles. Stand up is what he does, managing to fill large halls with little promotion. He’s toured relentlessly for 25 years and stage is the only place he appears to be truly comfortable. After two successful specials for Comedy Central, he’s now self releasing his videos and CDs, beholden to no one but himself. Comics like Mark Maron are in awe and Seinfeld featured him in last season’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
What little Regan reveals of himself is in small glimpses and asides. A spot of darkness emerged when he spoke of seeing a sign: Fiedler Roofing. How could someone, he thought, not see the obvious pun of Fiedler on the Roof. “That kept me up to 3 am thinking on this. [pause] One of the things you learn is when to just let it go.”
Another door into the mind of Regan opened in a tale that started traditionally enough with the drudgery of lines at amusement park rides. That morphed into rude people who try to cut in line. When he rebuked an entire family that tried to slide past he and his two kids, he engaged in a little chest beating about setting an example. Then he went on to the chasm between what he did and what he’d wish he’d done: flinging the contents of their pockets, plus their hats, purse and bags, far away because “I thought that’s what you wanted, complete anarchy. Order lives in this line, it is the line!”
» Here's video of Brian Regan’s 25th appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, more visits than any other comedian: