Steve Eaton: Brian Regan talks about fame, pig heads and scary men walking on stage
It's possible that Brian Regan doesn't know he's famous.
Never mind that the stand-up comic tends to sell out not just one, but several shows when he visits Utah. Tickets for his four performances at the Ellen Eccles Theater in Logan this weekend have all been bought up.
Regan has been on the "Tonight Show" several times and the "The Lat Show With David Letterman" 20 times. He's done two one-hour specials for "Comedy Central," appeared on "Showtime" and "MTV," and won several awards, such as "Best Club Comedian" at the American Comedy Awards in 1996.
And yet, when asked by the Deseret News just exactly when he knew he had become famous, Regan seemed quite confused by the question.
He related an experience of arriving in a town in his bus with his family and moving up to the front to sit next to his driver. There were people in a parking lot, wearing orange vests, systematically directing cars to parking spots.
"So, I asked the driver, 'What's going on here, man?' "
"What are you talking about?" the driver asked.
Regan explained that he wanted to know what the big event was. His driver looked at him and said, "You're doing a show tonight."
"All of a sudden I got scared," Regan said.
Somehow, the idea that they had to carefully pack a parking lot for all the people attending his show made Regan nervous.
"Anytime anybody has to put on orange vests because of me … I'd better start writing," he said.
He does, however, recognize that he has a serious following in Utah.
"I love it, man," he said. "First of all, the state is beautiful, and the people are very friendly, and I've had a lot of success in that area (Utah)."
It's speculated that Regan's popularity with Utah audiences stems from his family-friendly routines. But Regan said he's doesn't clean up his act in hopes of reaching a unique target audience.
"I don't sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and say, 'Man, am I going to write some clean jokes today!' " he said. "I just write about what I'm interested in.
"I'm not setting out to be a clean comedian. I'm just setting out to be a comedian."
It's clear Regan's humor reaches diverse audiences. His 1997 CD, "Brian Regan Live," sold more than 150,000 copies and consistently charts in iTunes Top 10 Comedy Albums, according to his website. His newest CD, "All By Myself," is now available for digital download through his website at www.brianregan.com.
Regan doesn't come across as someone who is full of himself. He told a story of being on an airplane, in coach class, waiting to use the restroom when a 14-year-old boy came out and said to him, "The flap coil value burner smokin' in there."
Regan, who sometimes gets plugged ears when he flies, wasn't sure what the teenager had said. So he just replied, "Oh, OK, thanks man," and went into the restroom. Moments later he realized the teenager had just perfectly recited a line from a routine Regan does about monster trucks.
He realized the teenager had probably put some thought into saying something clever, and that he didn't even acknowledge it. Regan said he felt horrible.
"When I came out I just walked down the aisle and I looked at every single seat trying to find that kid, and I finally found him and I said, 'Hey, man. I just want you to know that I really appreciate you doing my bit. That means a lot to me. That was really cool.' "
Regan said he's not recognized everywhere he goes, so he can be somewhat anonymous most of the time. But he does recognize his humor showing up in unlikely places.
One of his routines has him imagining that people flying first-class must think of themselves as royalty on thrones in their oversize seats, going so far as to say, "Bring me the head of a pig!"
Regan was in the first-class section himself once when he heard someone teasing another first-class passenger by asking, "Are you guys going to get the big head of a pig up here?"
Regan is convinced the man didn't even notice that the person he had quoted was sitting only a few feet away.
Regan has been touring for years and often takes his wife and his two children with him. He said his kids, ages 11 and 7, still can be a good audience.
"My kids think I'm funny, which is cool," he said.
And he must recognize that his fans love his humor.
On at least one occasion, though, the adoration of a fan proved a bit intimidating. During a show, a "big burly guy" wearing a coonskin hat went up on stage while Regan was in the middle of a bit.
"I don't know if he came out of a time machine or what, but the guy just walked up on stage while I was in the middle of my show," he said. "I was new and wasn't very adept at handling this sort of thing, and I kind of looked and he's walking toward me and I was like, 'I don't know, is this my last minute as a living human being?'
"And the guy came over and put his arms around me and kissed me on the cheek and said, 'I love ya, man!' "
Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan.
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