For many stand-up comics, comedy was not their first career option. Jeff Foxworthy initially toiled at IBM, working on mainframes. Paul Mecurio made a very nice living as an attorney. Brian Regan was on the way to becoming an accountant.
But a funny thing happened to Regan on the way to following in his father's footsteps. “I discovered that I didn't have the aptitude to be an accountant,” Regan said during a phone call from his Las Vegas home. “My dad was a natural accountant, but I fell behind quickly in college. Once you fall behind while you're studying accounting in college, you're in trouble. I figured out that I was no good at accounting, but I had no idea what else I would do.”
Fortunately, his college football coach knew what Regan was meant to do for a living. “He said, 'You're a funny guy; did you ever consider theater?”
Regan, 56, became a theater major, which led to stand-up, and he never looked back. Regan, who will perform Friday at the Straz Center, doesn't just crack wise effectively. Unlike many of his peers, Regan, who has been a stand-up for 34 years, doesn't use obscenities as a crutch.
“I like being a clean comedian,” Regan said. “You don't have to ever change your material for an audience. For instance, when you perform on network television, there are certain standards you have to adhere to. If you're clean, you don't even have to think about that. I knew this comic who got the call to be on 'The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson' back in the day. He had to change language to do the jokes clean on Carson. I remember during the taping, he was thrown since he didn't get the big laugh that he was used to getting because of the change in language.
“I never wanted that to happen to me. When I did 'The Tonight Show' with Carson, I was fine. I traveled a different route than the comedian who had the trouble on the show. But I'm not going to get up on a high horse about what I do. There are comics that are dirty that I find hilarious. What I do isn't loftier than what they do. It's about getting laughs.”
Regan's off-the-wall observations, which often hark back to childhood, and his relatable personal tales get plenty of laughs. The divorced father of two children is an inveterate stand-up, who doesn't pine for film or small-screen success.
“Sure, it would be nice to have a sitcom,” Regan said. “But it's something that would have to be on my terms. But it's not something I was ever fixated on. Some comedians use stand-up as a springboard to a sitcom or a career in film. I would rather do stand-up than a show, especially if I didn't have creative control. I don't have those kind of dreams. I'm happy doing what I do. I'm content with what I've achieved. If another opportunity arrives that I'd like to pursue, sure, I would see if it would work. But if nothing ever comes down the pike and all I have is stand-up, I'm a happy man. It's been a great run for me, and I still have a lot of comedy that's going to come out of me.”
Regan doesn't look back at what might of have been since he never graduated from college and failed to become a professional football player. “I got cut from a semi-pro team in Orlando, and that was the end of my football career,” Regan said. “I'm fine with that. I loved playing football, but the last thing I need is anything else to happen to my head. As for school, I'm fine there. My alma mater (Heidelberg College in Ohio) gave me an honorary doctorate. I'm a doctor of humane letters, whatever that means. It all worked out for me. I figured it all out and I wouldn't trade it for anything.”