Stand-up comedy fans tend to walk into their favorite comedian’s shows ready and willing to laugh at just about anything. The comic walks onstage and it’s hilarious. He says hello and the whole audience is in stitches. By the time he starts his act, the crowd is rolling around on the floor in tears.
So when I took my seat at the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center to see Brian Regan on Thursday night, I knew exactly what to expect from the packed house of fans. I knew I wouldn’t be able to judge the forthcoming show’s quality by their reactions.
I did not, however, know what Regan had in store. I had never before seen his stand-up.
He shuffled onto the stage after opening comic Jackie Kashian had finished her relatively successful act and met his excited, warmed-up audience. He greeted us, told us we were nice people and launched right into a wealth of self-deprecating stand-up material.
He opened with a safe one-liner: Regan’s New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to lose 20 pounds and he was close to his goal — only 25 pounds to go.
It kicked off a series of weight-gain-related jokes. He described the increasing degrees to which the waistband of his underwear flips down as his belly gets bigger, at which point I realized Regan was quite the physical comedian.
He used his body to illustrate every step of every comical anecdote and contorted his face and voice when acting as different characters. At times, his flailing limbs and loud, dumb voices got annoying, but for the most part they added dimension to his material.
Now, I’m not an easy crowd when it comes to stand-up. I don’t really enjoy physical or musical comedy, whereas stand-up comedians tend to like those genres of humor a little too much. So we don’t always mix well.
I do like ironic humor — comedy that gives mundane, everyday situations an unexpected perspective. I’ve always liked Jerry Seinfeld.
And now I like Brian Regan.
The first time Regan got full-blown laughter out of me was in his reminiscence of trying to learn how to work a juicer.
“The first thing I tried to make was banana juice,” he said, “not knowing there is no moisture anywhere inside a banana.”
He proceeded to illustrate his ill-fated attempt to juice seven bananas before realizing bananas can’t produce juice. I, along with the rest of the audience, lost it.
Relatable humor is the best kind, and we’ve all done stupid stuff — more than that, we’ve all done stupid stuff repeatedly before realizing how stupid it was. Regan’s juicer story hit the nail on the head, setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
Regan eventually moved away from the self-deprecating humor and toward commentary on social situations, such as dating and parties.
He performed one bit about joining a dance floor: You can’t just go from normal walking to full-blown dancing. You have to start dancing little by little as you approach the dance floor. It’s a delicate process.
Aerospace engineering sophomore Scott Jorgens identified best with this bit.
“My favorite part was the dancing and how awkward he was,” Jorgens said. “I just related to that. Everything he said was pretty true.”
One of Regan’s best bits focused on the activities men choose to do when they spend time together, such as fishing and hunting. He pointed out how strange the man-dates would be after removing any animal-killing from them.
Fishing would consist of waking up at the crack of dawn, driving to a lake and sitting close to each other in a small boat for a long time. Hunting would be reduced to taking a walk through the woods in matching outfits. (Of course, I could never do Regan’s material justice in my retelling, especially when I lack his flapping hand gestures, crazy voices and spot-on facial expressions.)
His delivery was quirky and unique. Between bits, Regan paced the stage, mumbling to himself. He took time with his anecdotes — he spoke slowly, moved slowly and put periods of silence between lines to build anticipation. He never got ahead of his audience.
Also, Regan messed up twice — and it was hilarious.
The first goof was in his transition to a joke about the pope, in which he forgot Pope Francis’ name. Regan paused mid-line, racking his brain, eventually giving in: “Is it Pope Benedict?” And when an audience member told him otherwise: “Guess which joke I’m working on later?”
It happened again in a joke about Mars exploration, where Regan called rovers “the little wheely things.” He laughed at himself upon remembering their actual name and said, “now I have two assignments.”
Regan ended his official set with a rant about confirming hotel reservations but returned shortly for an encore, during which he connected more personally with the audience.
“San Luis Obispo,” he said slowly. “That’s fun to say. You probably just wake up every day and say, ‘Oh, I get to say it!’”
Audience members yelled corrections to his mispronunciation of our city’s name, which inspired Regan’s closing bit.
“I’m just trying to get through life without looking stupid,” he said.
He followed up by pointing out little things that can make anyone look dumb: walking into a spider web, getting off an elevator at the wrong floor and immediately getting back on, guessing someone’s gender incorrectly.
Regan ultimately left his audience roaring with laughter and applause.
Cal Poly Arts Director Steve Lerian told me last week Regan’s show was Cal Poly Arts’ best-selling event of the season and last night I saw why. He was a clean comic, relatable to any age. In the audience I saw families with kids, college students in groups and on dates, elderly married couples and everyone in between. They all seemed to love it.
Civil engineering sophomore Spencer Jemes said though he’s been watching Regan’s stand-up for more than a year, he rarely sees the comic repeat material.
“That’s what’s amazing about him,” Jemes said. “All his acts are completely original.”
I made sure to jot down some of Regan’s funniest jokes, so I’ll close with his words, not mine.
On learning: “I’m trying to get smarter. Anyone ever try that? It’s hard. I’m trying everything short of reading.”
On women’s curling: “She’s got that look in her eye where I think if a bird flew in front of her, it would explode.”
At restaurants: “Why is the catch of the day always fish? Don’t they have to catch all the animals?”
On voice-over actors’ careers: “You get a voice-over agent. He sends you out on an audition. You wait a couple days. Your voice-over agent calls. He tells you they gave the part to Morgan Freeman.”
On tattoos: “I think somebody should get a tattoo of a dozen Easter eggs, but tell the tattoo artist to hide them. Then if anyone ever finds them all, you know they like you.”
On performing two miracles to meet sainthood requirements: “I can sort of do that thing where you put your two index fingers together, then you look off in the distance and you see a kind of floating sausage. So that’s one. Then I’d hit ‘em with my rubber pencil trick.”