When it comes to comedians, TV has a voracious appetite. One hour-long special could chew up a year’s worth of material.
A problem? Not for Brian Regan. “That gives me motivation to keep writing,” he says.
Filling shows for dozens of years, the clean comic with an offbeat view of life was actually invigorated by his recent Comedy Central special, “Brian Regan: Live from Radio City Music Hall.” “I might go a day or two and not think of anything new, but then the flood gates open,” he says.
“I used to have periods in my career where I would worry about it, where I’d think I’d hit the brick wall – ‘there’s no more funny left’ – but a few days later a new part of your brain opens up and you’re back at it.”
Performing since he was in college, the 58-year-old Florida native says much of that early material was never preserved on a CD or DVD. “A lot of it came and went.”
Regan, though, kept the loose-leaf sheets of paper, the napkins and the computer files where it was written so that, someday, he could look back and give it a sense of order.
“I’ve got folders on my computer that I look at and think, ‘I should probably try to organize this,’ but then I don’t, so it’s a quest you can never nail down perfectly.”
Recently, Regan watched a performance from the 1980s (“that was so old it was recorded on Beta”) he was sure would make him cringe. “I was pleasantly surprised. Clearly I was green, but I had the seeds, even at the beginning, of a hopefully unique career.”
His first CD addressed things like “feeling stupid in school and Little League baseball.” Now, he says with a laugh, he’s getting near the point where he’ll talk about how his hip hurts and how loud teenagers play their music.
A Letterman regular
One of David Letterman’s favorite comedians, Regan appeared regularly on his shows since 1995, providing a unique visual reference of his own career.
“It was a tremendous ride doing that show,” he says of “The Late Show with David Letterman.” “It was the show comedians wanted to get on. And to be able to do one was a tremendous experience. To be called and they say, ‘Hey, we want you for second one,’ was even more thrilling.”
In all, he made 28 appearances. “It made me feel like I was a player,” Regan says. “I felt like I could walk around like a proud peacock. My last appearance, I was on with Ray Romano and Dave Matthews. When people watched the show, they probably said, ‘We saw Ray Romano, Dave Matthews and another guy,’ but it meant a lot to me.”
When Regan made an appearance on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” in September, it was a bit of a shock. “It was like, ‘Wow. Here’s another talk show set.’ I had a sense of loyalty to Dave.”
While some comedians have used their stand-up as a springboard to hosting talk shows, Regan doubts he would make that move. “I don’t think I have that skill set. You’ve got to know a lot about a lot of things…and I don’t. I’m not a big schmoozer. I don’t think I could talk to a singer and laugh at their anecdotes.”
For the time being, a sitcom isn’t on the agenda, either.
“I always had challenges breaking into that world,” he says. “Part of it was them not knowing anything about me. And part of it was if they did know anything about me, they didn’t know how particular I was.
“I didn’t want to be in a situation where they’d say, ‘All right, you’ve been funny for a while. We’ll write the scripts and see what we can do.’ I didn’t want to get in situations where I wasn’t creative.”
With more networks seeking content, Regan says, one may agree to his terms eventually. “I’d love to be able to take a crack at it, doing something unique and different and interesting.”
More likely? A film role or two. He appeared in Chris Rock’s “Top 5” and enjoyed the work. “I got a lot of nice feedback but Hollywood doesn’t work the way I thought it was supposed to. You figure you do something like that and that leads to something.
“My career hasn’t been like that. I guess I love the autonomy of being a stand-up. I like being able to call the shots. I’m not good at having a boss.”
Regan’s goal starting out? “Do stand-up comedy and earn $100 a night. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting close.”