I don't sit down with a goal of writing. I read books or magazines. I watch TV. I go to the doctor. I get on airplanes. I live a normal life and sometimes I'll notice something or read things or experience things. —Brian Regan
Have you heard comedian Brian Regan's joke about the emergency room, when Regan pokes fun at hospital parking situations and a nurse asks him what "level" of pain he was in? Or the eye doctor joke, when he laughs at the difficulty he had with picking which prescription was better, No. 1 or No. 2?
Those things really happened. Regan's refrigerator joke — in which a salesman has a hard time finding any meaningful difference between each product — is also based on a real-life experience. In fact, Regan said most of his jokes come from things that have happened to him personally and that happen to most people in their day-to-day lives.
"I don't sit down with a goal of writing," Regan said during a telephone interview with the Deseret News. "I read books or magazines. I watch TV. I go to the doctor. I get on airplanes. I live a normal life and sometimes I'll notice something or read things or experience things."
Now, Regan, who will be performing five shows this weekend in Logan at The Ellen Eccles Theatre, said he takes notes on his iPhone. But before the new technology he would scramble to take notes on anything he could find.
"I have boxes of napkins and scrap paper. I just write on whatever is near. I've got a bunch of old stuff that every once and a while I will go through to try and find something I haven't used."
When asked about which jokes had actually happened to him, Regan listed off several.
"The ironing-board thing is true," he said of his bit about why every ironing board squeaks. "I'm surprised it took me that long to come up with something about it because for years every time I tried to iron a shirt I would hear that noise and think, 'I've got to do something about this noise as a joke.' Finally I just banged out a little bit about it. So that was from an actual experience."
But it wasn't always this easy for Regan to come up with jokes that would leave an audience laughing and sometimes crying.
When Regan was first playing with the idea of becoming a comedian in college, he was simply trying to find a place to practice his stand-up.
"I was watching a movie at the Ritz theater in Tiffin, Ohio, and before the movie started I realized: 'Hey, there is an audience here.'"
Regan never did get to perform in front of a movie-waiting crowd, but the theater manager asked him to perform at the next party they were hosting: Mickey Mouse's birthday.
"I sound like I'm joking here but I'm really not," Regan said. "It was a bunch of kids and their parents who came for this birthday party. That was one of my first performances. Unfortunately that show went horribly off the tracks. I had never really done it before, so I kind of bombed."
Fortunately for his fans, Regan didn't let it slow him down. He knew comedy was something he wanted to do because of the way he felt every time he left his college speech class.
"I used to try and make my speeches funny so it would be fun for me," Regan said. "The first couple of times I got the class laughing. I remember thinking to myself, 'I don't feel like this when I walk back from any other classes.'"
Regan was attending Heidelberg (Ohio) College, studying at the time to follow in his father's footsteps and become an accountant.
"I went to college as an economics major thinking I would be an accountant — but not because I had a burning desire to be an accountant," said Regan. "I don't know if anybody has a burning desire to be an accountant, but I just couldn't think of anything else to gravitate towards. I thought, 'I know how to add and subtract, so maybe I should be an accountant.'"
But Regan soon moved back to south Florida, where he had grown up, and began performing in comedy clubs rather than Mickey Mouse birthday parties. Regan joined a club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a few years and then began touring before ultimately moving to New York City, which has led him to where he is today.
Although his choice in career forces him to be on the road a lot, Regan said his job actually allows him to spend more time with his kids.
"It's kind of the opposite of what a lot of people might think," he said. "I'm on the road quite often, but I'm home more than when I'm away — and when I'm home, I'm home all day. Plus I travel with them, so oddly enough I spend more time with them than people might think."
Even though Regan has theaters full of fans waiting to be impressed, what his own kids think about him seems to be most important.
"They are actually quite proud of me, which means a lot."
Tickets may be purchased online at the Cache Valley Center for the Arts website.
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.