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Encore: Comedian Brian Regan Sees The Dinosaurs In Everyday Life


Stand-up comedian Brian Regan has been on the road performing almost nonstop since the 1980s.


BRIAN REGAN: I'm trying to go to more parties. I'm not good at them. I'm not good at talking to people, which might sound weird in this setting.


MONTAGNE: Regan has been called your favorite comedian's favorite comedian, and he does it clean without profanity. That may be one reason he consistently fills major venues, and he's back on tour later this month. In April, NPR's Elizabeth Blair brought us this profile of Regan. She caught up with him right before his show at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C.


ELIZABETH BLAIR: If Brian Regan were a rock star, one of his hits would be called "Dora The Explorer."


REGAN: First of all, did the producers think that rhymes? (Singing) Dora the explorer.


REGAN: Maybe it rhymes in the Kennedy household. (Imitating accent) Put on "Dora The Explorer."

BLAIR: Another hit would be sports on TV.


REGAN: Then I get to hear my favorite sports reporter question - would you consider this a must-win game? They always feel like they have to say yes. Yeah, we want to win it. It's very important to have momentum and, you know? We have our uniforms on anyway, might as well try.

BLAIR: Since Regan plays it clean, families flock to his shows. Fifteen-year-old Alissa Timko was there with her family. She says one of her favorite bits of his is called "Stupid In School."

ALISSA TIMKO: He describes how he fails at spelling and the science project. Oh, my God. That was funny.


REGAN: I think the worst day it was the day the science project was due. Waking up that morning, that was fun, huh? Your head would pop off your pillow. Oh, no.


REGAN: That's due today. I had nine months to work on it, and I did nothing.

BLAIR: "Stupid In School" is a bit from the '90s and was on Regan's first album.


REGAN: And you'd show up, you're scared because you don't have anything good. And you find out all the other kids, their parents made theirs for them. I hated that, you know? They're backing them up on flatbed trucks. One kid with a volcano. He didn't know how to zip up his own pants, but he built a volcano. How'd you swing that?

BLAIR: Brian Regan says comedians notice things other people don't always see.

REGAN: You know those 3D posters where it's just like weird shapes? People say if you look at it for a while, there's a dinosaur in there. And you look at it and go, I don't see a dinosaur, I don't see a dinosaur, I don't see a dinosaur. Oh. (Laughter) Oh, I see it. That's what jokes are like. You look at life. You look at it the same way everybody else does. But for a comedian every once in a while, you see a dinosaur, you see a joke, you go, hey, there's a joke there.

BLAIR: Reagan grew up in suburban Miami with his seven siblings. It was his college football coach who encouraged him to try theater, which eventually led him to stand-up.

REGAN: I dropped out of college to do it, so imagine that phone call to Mom and Dad.

BLAIR: Reagan says they didn't like the idea but didn't stop him. He auditioned for a spot at a comedy club in Fort Lauderdale. The manager said he could perform as often as he wanted after the headliners.

REGAN: So I decided I was going to go on every single night. And it was at the end of the show, after the other comedians were done, the audience was walking out. It was not an easy atmosphere, but I figured I'm going to learn something every time I get on stage.

BLAIR: After his self-imposed boot camp, Regan started touring comedy clubs around the country. In 1995, he landed a spot on the "Late Show With David Letterman" on CBS. Regan was invited back 27 more times, more than any other stand-up comedian on that show.


REGAN: I went into a greeting card store today - too many sections. They have a whole section called blank inside.


REGAN: What in the hell is a blank inside card? So I've been sending them out. Sorry you're feeling so blank inside.


REGAN: I feel like that myself sometimes.

RAY ROMANO: I'm very envious of a couple things of his.

BLAIR: Ray Romano and Brian Regan started doing stand-up around the same time before Romano became famous in the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond." Romano says Regan is known for going on tour with enough jokes to fill two completely different shows so his fans would come back twice in one weekend knowing they wouldn't see the same show.

ROMANO: And I'm like, how can he write that much material? It's just incredible.

BLAIR: And Romano says Regan does all that writing without curse words or dirty jokes, known as working blue.

ROMANO: Not to take anything away from crafting comedy and being blue, I just think the degree of difficulty is much harder for Brian. And I just give him more credit for it.

BLAIR: But Brian Regan isn't thrilled with the clean comedian label.

REGAN: Because I think when you see the word clean associated with comedy, a lot of people think that that's the point of it. Like, oh, he's trying to be wholesome. He's trying to make a statement. And that's not it at all. There are comedians out there who work dirty who I think are great.

BLAIR: Comedians, even those who work blue, are some of Regan's biggest fans. Chris Rock's been quoted as saying no comedian in the world says, yeah, I want to follow Brian Regan. And Bill Burr, one of today's top stand-ups who drops plenty of f-bombs, called Regan a master on his podcast.


BILL BURR: Brian basically goes out and for 90 straight minutes, it sounds like a jet is landing, how hard this guy kills.


REGAN: You ever go to a brand new doctor and the moment he walks in, you're like, no.


REGAN: No, this ain't going to work out. I need an air vent or something I can crawl through to safety. I was sitting there. I'm nervous enough. Doctor walks in, all the buttons on his lab coat were off by one.


REGAN: If he can't nail that task...

BLAIR: Brian Regan says when he first started doing stand-up, he had a few four-letter words in his act.

REGAN: But I found that didn't feel natural to me, you know? It's like you want to feel like you're as in the moment as possible. You want feel real. And that stuff just doesn't feel real to me.

BLAIR: The real Brian Regan is so popular he doesn't do clubs anymore. Instead, he fills civic centers and arenas around the country. And if you can't catch him there, he's on Netflix.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: And that story originally aired in April. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Elizabeth Blair
Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.