Brian Regan preps for new Netflix stand-up special with Aspen tour stop
IF YOU GO …
Who: Brian Regan
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Monday, Feb. 10, 8:30 p.m.
How much: $78-$198
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
After some four decades of doing stand-up, Brian Regan got hot.
The veteran road comic — once dubbed “your favorite comic’s favorite comic” by Entertainment Weekly — spent years performing clean comedy on a “never-ending tour,” doing Letterman regularly and growing a national fan base. But in just the past few years, Regan, 61, has hit show business milestones including signing a two-special deal with Netflix, making a Jerry Seinfeld-produced sketch show, and acting in the Oscar winner and “Dumb and Dumber” creator Peter Farrelly’s new series “Loudermilk.”
Regan doesn’t swear on stage, he doesn’t generally do topical or political humor. His genius is in mining comic gems from everyday observations with a goofy and self-deprecating charm, aided by a gift for a funny face and voice here and there. He doesn’t chase trends, he doesn’t try to fit into the styles of the moment.
“I realized a long time ago that I need to do what I like and hope that there will be people in the audience who like what I like,” Regan said Wednesday from a tour stop in Casper, Wyoming. “But I’m not trying to figure out where I fit in or what people are looking for or what people want.”
Regan will headline Belly Up Aspen on Monday night, capping a five-date Colorado run that includes shows in Colorado Springs (Feb. 6), Denver (Feb. 7 and 8) and Beaver Creek (Feb. 9).
Regan’s show is presented by the Aspen Laugh Festival, the latest in a long line of annual Aspen stand-up festivals that stretches back to 1989 and the Aspen Comedy Festival, first broadcast by Showtime. Regan was here nearly from the beginning. He performed at the second annual Aspen Comedy Festival in 1990, hosted by his friend and longtime champion Jerry Seinfeld (on Regan’s recent episode of Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the pair tool around in a Cadillac, visit a golf shop and discuss young comics, comedy critics, psychiatrist doodles, left-handed spoons and the true oddness of why Marilyn Monroe’s skirt blowing in the subway air in “Some Like It Hot” is considered so sexy).
His best memory of that Aspen tour stop is skiing nearly deserted trails on Super Bowl Sunday: “Ski on Super Bowl Sunday and you have the whole mountain to yourself,” he advised. “It was amazing.”
Regan is playing Colorado while fine-tuning material for a new hour-long special for Netflix, which he’s planning to tape this spring and which is expected to begin streaming later this fall. It’s his second for the streaming giant.
He is bringing material that sticks to his signature observational style, looking at family life and personal foibles (he’s currently working on a bit about his OCD).
“I try to find peculiar stuff within those worlds,” he said. “Buckle up! I have jokes about food so that can get bumpy.”
Of course, comedy is actually bumpier than ever in the bitterly divided Trump Era and new and more complex battle lines are drawn daily in the culture wars.
Regan generally steers clear of politics and has never been one to seek controversy on-stage, though in his 2017 special “Nanchucks and Flamethrowers” he did briefly refer to the newly inaugurated president and some of the political furor surrounding him.
He began that nimble section of the show with a laugh-line of an admission: “I don’t know if I’ve ever been more afraid to bring up a subject in my life,” before going into absurd bits about using literal “boots on the ground” as a weapon in the Middle East and about Kim Jong Un’s sarcasm ban.
Regan said he “put his big toe in that water” again in the new material he’s currently touring, but his is a political comedy that isn’t out to pick any fights.
“I try to do the kinds of jokes that both sides can laugh at,” Regan said. “Both sides might even think I’m on their side. … The kind of comedy I want to do is the stuff where it doesn’t matter what side you’re on, you can have a good time. I don’t want somebody in my audience saying, ‘Man, I wish I didn’t come here tonight.’”
Along with his specials, Regan made the inventive four-part series “Stand Up and Away” for Netflix in late 2018. A hybrid stand-up and sketch comedy show, it takes Regan’s on-stage bits — many of them classics from his road act over the years — and translates them into sketches, with the comic also bantering with his audience and a producer. On the show a bit about astronaut bragging rights jumps to Regan in a sketch as an overcompensating Apollo mission member and one about food hops to a faux commercial for a “lap grill” that allows you to cook Foreman-style while you drive.
“It was interesting to see what sketches went with what stand-up routines,” he said. “I enjoy both of those worlds.”
Netflix only ordered four episodes of “Stand Up and Away,” so he won’t be making more for them. But Regan said he is now shopping the concept to other broadcasters: “I’d love to do that show exactly or something similar on a different platform.”
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The literary nonprofit Aspen Words is restarting its writers-in-residence program that had been on pause during the pandemic. Residents include “Call Me By Your Name” author André Aciman. Public events begin June 15.