For nearly 30 years Brian Regan has worked hard to develop his reputation as one of the top standup comics on the planet, working in the clean and clever school of comedy that has also paid off for Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan. Yet unlike those two fellow superstars, Regan had long struggled to succeed as an actor as well as a comedian.
The Las Vegas-based funnyman is currently riding a creative wave in which Oscar-winning comedy wizard Peter Farrelly of “Green Book” fame has cast him in the critically acclaimed TV series “Loudermilk.” He also recently unveiled the four-episode Netflix series “Stand Up and Away!” which is produced by Seinfeld and combines his greatest hits from standup with comedy sketches based on those routines.
Next Thursday, Aug. 22, Regan will be hitting the stage of the historic Pasadena Civic Auditorium as part of a national standup comedy tour that serves as the testing ground of new material for his next Netflix special..
“I was in college, took a speech class while an accounting major. I made my class laugh and made my teacher laugh, and I was like, ‘I’ve never impressed a teacher in my life about anything,’” recalls Regan, taking time to explain his creative process and the challenges and rewards of finally breaking into comedy beyond the stage. “I loved the feeling and making people laugh. It spoke to my soul and so I decided to be a standup comedian. I pride myself on turning the material over. I have seven different one-hour recordings out there, and I’m working on my eighth. Once I finish one, I consider it done and baked and I move away from it.”
While Regan lives in Las Vegas, he doesn’t perform there, instead preferring to keep his home base a regular home while raising his two children.
“I don’t talk about them that much anymore,” says Regan. “When they were young, I tried to do stuff about kids and parenting and used my kids as examples. I never wanted to do the kind of thing where they’d be embarrassed or me following them around with a notebook. I mention that I’m a dad onstage because I want a little autobiography, but I don’t move much in that direction.
“I’m not actively looking but there’s an antenna that’s always up, even if I’m not always paying attention to it,” he adds. “Going through my day, I’ll notice something that’s odd, goofy, whatever. That’s my work and my act. I wouldn’t say that I’m red alert as I’m walking around, but I happen upon it. It comes to me.”
It’s a good thing that material comes to him so easily, since his Netflix deal for multiple specials puts him in a rarefied class of comics that includes Dave Chappelle, Jim Gaffigan and Chris Rock and requires him to always be thinking of top-notch jokes. He notes that Netflix provides a “great opportunity for a lot of comedians to get their content out there,” but that “the downside is with so much content, it’s harder for people to be noticed.”
“As far as what I’m talking about these days, it’s hard to describe comedy in a short version but I would like to say lately I’m talking about things that would surprise people,” says Regan. “People attach a clean connotation to what I do, but I like to have some rough edges occasionally. I talk about guns in my show, dabble in politics a bit. I try to approach things where both sides laugh, but the topics might surprise you.”
It was Peter Farrelly who came to Regan with the role of “Mugsy” in “Loudermilk,” a recovering alcoholic and father estranged from his gaggle of kids. Farrelly had seen him perform at a comedy festival and initially came backstage to commend his performance, but in meeting him he saw a depth of personality that had largely been untapped by Hollywood until then.
“He created the character of Mugsy for me, though he’s not like me,” says Regan. “I thought I could make him funny and real, and I also wanted to act. I never had an opportunity to act. It was just a great opportunity for me. I have a lot of serious emotional stuff this year in addition to the funny stuff.
“Hollywood seemed to have a blind eye to me, and I never really felt like anybody gave a damn about anything I was doing,” he continues. “I’m surprised by that. I was surprised that nobody was knocking on my door or making my phone ring to do a sitcom. It hurt but at the same time I had a very successful standup career and don’t really need that. I wanted to do shows where I’m creatively involved if it’s about my comedy. Loudermilk is a departure from everything; it’s earthy and gritty while I’m clean. I get to act and don’t really get to act in standup. But I thought hey, you get only one crack in life.”
Brian Regan performs at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Aug. 22 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. Tickets are $34 to $44. Call (626) 795-9311 or visit ticketmaster.com.