By John Benson
There’s something special about playing shows in Ohio for comedian Brian Regan.
Even though the funnyman is a Florida native, he attended Tiffin’s Heidelberg College in the late ’70s and has always enjoyed coming back to the Buckeye State. He will bring his unique brand of homespun clean comedy back to Youngstown Sunday for a show at Stambaugh Auditorium.
Regan remains one of comedy’s hardest-working acts. While still supporting his 2011 album “All By Myself,” the 55-year-old’s recent achievements include making his 25th appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and being featured in Jerry Seinfeld’s popular Web series “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.”
The Vindicator recently talked to Regan about his Seinfeld experience, his current plans and a stand-up comedy secret.
Q. First of all, how did you land an episode of “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee?”
A. I’m fortunate enough to have known him before his sitcom. He saw me perform at Catch a Rising Star in New York City decades ago and was nice enough to say kind things to me. I’ve opened for him a number of times over the years, and when he was doing this Web series, apparently he had a list of people he wanted to do them with, and I was on the list. It means a lot to me that he would want to do one. So it’s very cool.
Q. For people who don’t know, “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” features Seinfeld picking up a comedian and taking them for, well, coffee in one of his many cars. How did you end up with the muscle car of muscle cars, a 1970 Dodge Challenger?
A. He called me ahead of time and said, “What kind of car do you like, did you dream about when you were a kid?” I said, “I don’t know anything about cars.” He said, “I’m taking this out of your hands. I think you’re an All-American kind of guy. I’m going to bring a Dodge Challenger.” So it was a lot of fun to do.
Q. In giving your CD “All By Myself” a recent spin, we noticed you used the “hell” word. However, you’re known as a clean comedian. Do super conservative audiences ever give you grief over the double-hockey-sticks language?
A. Yes. It’s rare, but yes. I’ve had a couple of times where people will say, “You know, I heard you were clean, but you did use some four-letter words.” I just kind of have to shrug. I use the words that were OK for my dad to use. He used the word “hell” and “damn,” and he’s one of the most wholesome guys I’ve ever known. To me, those words are OK, and if they’re not for other people, then that would be their choice.
Q. Looking ahead in your career, what’s the next mountain you want to climb?
A. If I just continue to do stand-up that would be great, but if I could get an opportunity to do a TV thing that’s about my comedy and how I think as a comedian, I’d love that opportunity. In the perfect world, it would not be a sitcom. I think those have been done and done well. It doesn’t seem to be a vehicle that works for how I think as a comedian. I think in one- or two-minute bursts. My bits are short. It’s me and an eye doctor or me and an ironing board or a flight attendant. They’re quick things, a little thought. I set it up and knock it down. To try to string or weave together in a show, I’m not that skilled.
Q. That said, what sort of topics will you be talking about at your upcoming show?
A. My topics are so mundane. I talk about health and my hip hurting. I talk a little bit about politics, but not so much from an ideological perspective but just how the media handles it. I try to keep moving. You know, it’s weird. I haven’t done a show in about a month because of the holidays, and my mind kind of empties out. In fact, I remember after taking a month off about six months ago and telling my tour manager, “I don’t remember any of my stuff.” And he was wigging out more than I was. I knew once I hit the stage that something would start coming back to me. I think he was petrified I’d go out there and stare at the audience for an hour.
Q. Wow, that’s fascinating. Has it ever backfired?
A. Very rarely. I’m not saying I walk out on stage and don’t have a clue. I have bullet points, but I’ll go out there and I don’t have all the bullet points. And I know when I’m out there, all of this stuff will hit me. It’s very rare that I just blank shut down, but that’s what the bottle of water is for. You go, “Hang on,” and take a sip of water. People in the audience think he needs a sip of water, and what he really needs is a chance to regroup.
Q. So when we see a five-gallon water cooler on stage at your show, we’ll know something is up?
A. Yeah, exactly. The audience will think, “Wow, This guy’s taking a lot of trips to the water cooler.”