Thirty years ago this month, a young Jerry Seinfeld introduced an up-and-coming comedian before a crowd at the Wheeler Opera House.
“I’m really a big fan of this guy. He’s new, he’s from Miami, Florida, he played Little League baseball,” Seinfeld said, to the audience’s amusement, of Brian Regan.
Three decades later, Regan, who will headline Belly Up Aspen on Monday (see sidebar for details), has established himself as one of the biggest names in comedy, with praises like “the funniest stand-up alive” (Vanity Fair) and “your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian” (Entertainment Weekly).
Regan has also enjoyed a long friendship with Seinfeld since the Showtime Aspen Comedy Festival circa 1990. Seinfeld, in fact, was the executive producer of Regan’s latest Netflix special, “Stand Up and Away! With Brian Regan.” The four-episode, half-hour series combines sketch comedy and stand-up. In a recent phone interview from Las Vegas, Regan described the special as “more of a concept show than standup.”
While in Aspen, Regan will test out some material he is working on for a one-hour standup special planned for later this year.
“I talk about having OCD, I talk about crime, I talk about sports,” Regan offered. “I talk about a wide variety of subjects.” Regan’s humor can be described as observational, self-deprecating and clean, as he tends to stray from profanity or polarizing subjects. Although a big believer in the First Amendment, Regan said, “I personally avoid certain things just because I don’t like to divide my audience up. I want everyone in the room to feel welcome.”
Like any entertainer, Regan’s rise to fame came with its share of embarrassing moments. He recalls a certain instance early in his career when he was asked to fill in for the headlining act, who had canceled, at a barn-turned-comedy-club in Jackson, Mississippi. “So, I went down there,” Regan said, “and I probably wasn’t ready to headline yet. I barely had 45 minutes of stuff.”
Much to his horror, mid-routine, members of the audience started standing up and walking out.
“I watched the majority of the audience [leave],” Regan said. “I’d never had that happen in my career. It was the most humiliating thing that ever happened to me.” The owner of the comedy club reminded him that the goal is to bring in business, not chase it away.
Asked how one bounces back after such an experience, Regan said, “That’s the hard part. It’s humbling; it’s humiliating. You have to remember that you know how to make people laugh. I made people laugh the night before, and I made people laugh the week before.”
Perhaps most important, Regan said, is having a true passion for performing and entertaining people.
“You have to love it to the point where those moments where you get laughs are worth the difficulty to get the next moment where you get laughs,” he said. “And the only way for me to do it was to love every moment of it, [including] the difficult times.
“To me, it was a quest, and I enjoyed the whole process.”
IF YOU GO…
What: Brian Regan with Joe Zimmerman
When: Monday, Feb. 10. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
Where: Belly Up Aspen
Cost: $78 standing general admission, $138 seated dance floor general admission, $198 reserved
Tickets and more information at bellyupaspen.com.