Culture & Lifestyle
Published December 21, 2018

Brian Regan's New Comedy Special Mutates Stand Up Bits Into Sketches

'Stand Up and Away! with Brian Regan' arrives exclusively on Netflix on December 24!

The Marvel Universe is vast, as well as its audience full of fans. One of those fans is comedian Brian Regan, whose new show “Stand Up and Away! with Brian Regan” arrives on Netflix on Monday, December 24. Regan sat down with to talk about his approach to comedy, the comics he read as a kid, and observational humor for Super Heroes. Let’s talk about your new show, “Stand Up and Away! with Brian Regan.” It’s produced by Jerry Seinfeld whom you’ve appeared with on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Can you tell us how you got connected with Jerry?

Brian Regan: I’m honored that he likes my stand up. He’s been kind to me over the years. I’ve opened for him a handful of times. He reached out to me and felt like I should have a show, which is the most amazing phone call a performer can get, you know what I mean? While he’s telling me this I’m holding the phone away from my ear like “This is happening?” So it was amazing, and then I got together with him and told him I had an idea and I pitched it to him in about three minutes. And he said “I like it let’s do it.”

I got emotional. I really did. I got a tear in my eye because that’s not how show business works. It’s a lot of “we’ll talk” and “we’ll see” and “we’ll circle back” all that stuff. But I knew he’s at a level in his career and in Hollywood and all that that if he wanted to do it, it would happen. And it was cool that he didn’t tell me he wanted to go think about it. He knew from the pitch he wanted to do this. Long story short, he’s executive producer but he lets me do it. He just spearheaded the ability for me to get this in with Netflix. He does weigh in occasionally but he’s the perfect executive producer. He’s like “I’ll give you my thoughts, but this is your show. Feel free to overrule me.” But he’s good. So he’d come in and sit down and say “I think this and I think that,” and you write everything down because he’s like a comedy god. So we incorporated a lot of his thoughts or ideas. It’s been tremendous to have him in my corner. I love the idea that you’re taking stand up, even some of your classic bits, and turning them into sketches. Is this something you’ve always wanted to do, if you had a bit you wanted to kind of explore more?

Brian Regan: Well, we’re careful to keep the stand up routines that people know as stand up. I don’t want to make a sketch version of something people already know. If you know a routine of mine, that’s the way you’re going to see it, where you make your own visuals in your mind. But then we’d think of things that would add to the stand up. It was fun to think of these silly, little sketches. It’s a nice hybrid, you know? It’s bits that people may or may not know that lead into these goofy thoughts. It feels like it would be a really satisfying way to explore a joke that you feel like “there’s so much more to this” that maybe stand up doesn’t lend itself?

Brian Regan: I’m fortunate that people still want to hear these older stand up bits. Which, to me is so bizarre because comedy is supposed to have a surprise. Somehow, I sidestepped that and people still want to hear these things. I’m like “why would they want to hear this? They already know the whole thing. They know where it goes.” So, I thought what would be a way to do this where it’s just not the stand up, where there’s something else added to it? And this seemed to be the answer. It’s a really cool idea. I love observational comedy, the really subtle things. I feel like the reason that kind of observational comedy works is because we all may feel very solitary, thinking we’re the only people who see certain things. And your comedy is kind of reassuring and the shock of “I’m not the only one!”

Brian Regan: That’s what it is, when it’s a shared laugh. Especially when you’re talking about something uncomfortable or something that happened to you, when you can share that in a way where people in the audience go “Oh yeah, I’m on board with that as well.” I think it makes us all feel better. Have you thought about observational comedy in a Marvel Super Hero scenario? Like, super-powered people in a big battle. Where’s the observational humor there? What’s the minutiae of their lives like, do you think?

Brian Regan: I think one of the things with a comic book hero or whatever is that when you boil it down they’re human to begin with. There might be a couple exceptions but they have human emotions. And that has to be the case for people to be able to relate to it. So, it’s the same as with comedy. We’re all human and I can share some exaggerated thing and we laugh about that. But in the Super Hero world, they’re human and they have these powers that people can fantasize, “Man, if I had the powers, I’d be able to do those kinds of things.” But with a human impetus, if you will. “Impetus” is the biggest word I know, and you saw it written on my 3x5 card, and I was determined to get it in. Determined to say “impetus.” It’s a ten-dollar word.

Cover of Rawhide Kid

Brian Regan: But getting back to the comic book thing, when I was growing up, I used to read the Rawhide Kid. He was a cowboy. My brothers and I would always read these RAWHIDE KID [comics], partly because of how ridiculously good he was with guns. One time he got in a gun fight. He had two guns, right? A holster with two guns, and he got in a bar fight with this other guy who also had two guns. The other guy got the draw on him, pulled his two guns out and was about to shoot the Rawhide Kid. So the only thing the Rawhide Kid could do was pull both of his guns out and shoot bullets into the muzzle of the other two guns. What a shot! Two shots went in and stuffed up the muzzle so the bullets couldn’t come out of the other guy’s gun. I’m thinking about the problems this would cause the other guy. I clearly don’t know how guns really work but in a cartoon, I feel like they’d back up and explode out the back and hit the guy in the face.

Brian Regan: It just stuffed it up. So now, reverse danger? Maybe a little kick back?

Brian Regan: Maybe if I had turned the page I’d have seen him with soot all over his face or something. One of the bits that I like that you’ve done is the “Good Dad.” When I saw it, it made me crack up because it’s true. Just “Guys, knock it off.” How many conflicts in the Marvel Universe could we solve by just bringing in a Good Dad?

Brian Regan: Just a common sense approach to it, backed with being able to run nine thousand miles an hour and fly. Or you’ve got Thanos. In Marvel Studios “Avengers: Infinity War” there are a lot of characters, a lot of conflict, but one Good Dad could have solved a lot of problems.

Brian Regan: That would have been a two minute movie. Or someone comes in at Jump Street and says “Hey, knock it off.” You also play Mugsy on "Loudermilk," on Direct TV's Audience Network, which was just renewed for a third season. For those who haven't seen it, what's the show about and who is Mugsy?

Brian Regan: I’m proud of [“Loudermilk”]. Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers is one of the co-creators. He and Bobby Mort created this dark comedy about substance abuse. Ron Livingston plays Loudermilk, who runs a substance abuse program, and we all get together and sit in the circle and we’re all trying to recover. I’m one of those guys, I play a character named Mugsy. It’s real but it’s earthy and gritty and also very funny.

My whole career has been on the stand up side of the tracks and to be able to put the acting had on is pretty cool. This is true, deep down, dark blue acting. It’s not clean [like your standup].

Brian Regan: It’s not clean at all. I think it’s weird for my fans because my comedy is a certain way, and people know my comedy is a certain way. But that’s comedy that’s coming out of my head. When I do this show, it’s someone else’s creative vision which happens to be edgier and dirtier and all of that. I’ve never met a person that said “clean comedy is the only way people should do comedy.” I believe everyone should do things the way they want to do. There are filthy comedians out there who are great.

So with this show, it might be tricky for a handful of fans who only want to watch clean stuff. If that’s all you want to watch? I get that. But “Loudermilk” might not be for you. But if you’re open to new and different kind of things and if you’re open to some rough language, then I would hope people would check it out.

Screenshot from Stand Up and Away with Brian Regan Would you say that acting scratches an itch that stand up doesn’t?

Brian Regan: Yeah because as much as I love stand up, I like being able to see how well I can do this. When I first started it, I had no idea if I could do it at all. In fact, the first shoot day of the first season, after my scene, nobody laughed on the set. And I had to shoot a very dramatic scene where I’m reuniting with my daughter who I hadn’t scene in ten years. It was serious and funny. It was supposed to be. And that night, I go back to the hotel and Peter Farrelly called me in my room and said “Hey man, why don’t you come on down to the bar for a drink?” I thought I was being fired. I thought “Okay, I didn’t rise to the occasion. I didn’t get it done. He’s being a gentleman. He’s going to tell me face-to-face. He’s not going to call someone and have someone call me.”

So, I went down there and there was a group of people at this table, and he can’t fire me in front of all these people. Everyone’s making small talk. So I’m just waiting for the shoe to drop. One by one people are leaving, and I didn’t want to leave because I’m thinking he needs to fire me, I gotta wait. I gotta be the last guy. That’s excruciating!

Brian Regan: It was. Then finally the third to last person left and it was just Peter Farrelly and me. And I took a deep breath and he goes “By the way, good job today on the scene. See you tomorrow!” He planned that.

Brian Regan: He had no idea what turmoil I had been going through for the last hour. To this day, I don’t think he realized what went down in my mind with that. That’s hilarious. Now you’re on season three, coming up?

Brian Regan: Season three is coming up and I’m very proud of it. So it all worked out. Congratulations.

Brian Regan: Maybe he’s still trying to figure out how to fire me. He’s playing the long game, and it’s going to hit you upside the head after three years.

Brian Regan: He’ll invite me down for a cocktail when I know I’m not going to get fired and that’s when he’s going to throw me the curveball. I will close on one Super Hero-related question. What superpower do you think would benefit you as a stand up comedian, or a performer in general?

Brian Regan: I’m not good at comeback lines. So I would like if I turned green and quadrupled my size. I think that would discourage a follow-up heckle. They heckle once and it’s me, and then my pants rip and my thighs and calves become enormous, and I look in the direction of the heckler and I don’t think they’d heckle a second time. I don’t think they would.

Brian Regan: I think they’d go “Never mind, go on with your act.” But also, they’d just be sitting there trying to figure out what just happened.

Brian Regan: The guy wouldn’t heckle again. And I can’t get violent because they’re not heckling. So then I’d take my mic out of the stand and go, “Doughnuts are weird!” Still in Hulk form.

Brian Regan: And now I’m the Hulk, doing my doughnut thing. “What’s the deal with sprinkles on donuts, on one side of the doughnut?” And people go “This guy is green. This guy’s green and huge.”

Hulk as Mechano

Brian Regan's new comedy series "Stand Up and Away! with Brian Regan" premieres exclusively on Netflix on Monday, December 24!