You heard this one? A guy walks into a club, wins the funniest person in New York competition and, as an added bonus, walks out with a manager who has stuck with him ever since.
Comedian Brian Regan told Pollstar that The Conversation Company’s Rory Rosegarten, who was a judge at the contest, came backstage and grabbed him before the results were announced.
“He took me aside, to his credit, and he said, ‘I have no idea who’s going to win this thing and I just want you to know right now … I want to manage you regardless of whether you win this.’ Little did I know he had already looked at the results, that lying, cheating, bastard,” Regan joked. “No, I just thought it was a classy gesture on his part.”
Regan, whose jokes range from observations on picking out a refrigerator to small talk at dinner parties, got his start in comedy during college where he was originally “geared up for one exciting rocketship ride in the accounting world” before realizing that he was better suited to the stage.
He compared his first attempt at standup to being in a 15-round fight.
“I walked onstage and forgot every single thing and just started ad-libbing about how dumb I was and the whole routine was about … how I couldn’t remember any of my audition material,” Regan said. “The professional comedians were coming up to me going, ‘Wow! That was great, man. Did you plan that?’ and I was like, ‘No I didn’t plan that!’ … That’s kinda what got me hooked.”
After spending a few years on the comedy club circuit, Regan met his agent, Rick Greenstein of the Gersh Agency, another member of his team who’s stuck around for the long haul.
Greenstein told Pollstar that when Regan started making the leap from clubs to theatres, it was a smooth transition.
“Back in ’03 he was primarily working clubs and we had tried a handful of theatres in markets that he had worked before. They worked beautifully,” Greenstein said. In the last few years, Regan has strictly played theatre dates in addition to doing casinos and private engagements.
While members of the stand-up world commonly dabble in TV and movies, Regan is one of the rare comedians to make it to theatres by building his fan base on stand-up alone.
“I just kind of assumed that you would have to get a sitcom to get to that point,” Regan said. “I just kept doing my standup and getting to where I had a little bit more of a following. … And then it was like, ‘I can play in these larger venues and it’s what I want to do.’”
And he discovered an added bonus of playing venues with larger stages.
“Literally, the higher the stage, the less people are inclined to heckle. I really think there’s something psychological about it. When they’re looking up they’re less inclined to yell.”
Regan laughed. “‘Wow! He must be good! He climbed three stairs! How dare we try to shout out at him! He’ll shoot us right down. Look how high he is!’”
Looking out at Regan’s audience, Greenstein pointed out that his fans range in age from young teens to people in their 60s.
“He is blessed with a very wide demographic audience,” he said. “Not every artist has that appeal. You go to Brian’s shows and you can see three generations of people.”
He said that one way Regan’s fan base has grown is through word of mouth – when friends or family come over, one fan might throw on the comedian’s DVD and “all of a sudden there’s eight or 10 or 15 people that are now Regan fans.”
Rosegarten agreed that Regan’s comedy is appealing because of its universal nature.
“Forget that he’s hilarious, forget that physically he’s fun to watch work,” he told Pollstar. “He’s also touching on stuff that really strikes a chord in every human being. It doesn’t matter what color you are, it doesn’t matter where you come from; none of it applies. It’s the human experience and that’s why his comedy works.”
He explained that not only are people laughing because it’s funny, but “they’re elbowing the person next to them as if to say, ‘Remember when this happened to us?’
“When you can get an audience with you like that, they’ll stay with you forever, because basically what he does is he goes up on stage and he holds up a mirror and we all laugh at ourselves.”
The fans that have followed his career often seem to know the material as well as the comedian himself. During Regan’s encores, the audience often shouts out the punchlines to jokes that date back to some of his earliest bits.
While Regan currently has dates on the books through April, he said more shows will be added throughout the year. A Comedy Central special, the second of two, is set to air by summer, with a DVD release to follow.