Comedian Brian Regan and Comedy Central made television history Friday night with the first airing of a live, hour-long stand-up comedy special.
Regan, the 57-year-old comic is one of the most respected comedians performing today. He has legions of fans, as well as fellow comics, largely due to the fact that he is able to sell out theaters across the country on the strength of his stand-up comedy alone and without the benefit of starring in a network sitcom or feature film project. Regan pitched the idea of a live show to Comedy Central in an effort to differentiate his special from what had been done before, as he explained to Philip Stamato of Splitsider.
“I had done two previous Comedy Central one-hour specials, and those were fun to do. Comedy Central does a lot of specials with a lot of comedians, and I thought, what could be a bit different? Then I realized, well…making it live. I don’t think they’ve ever done live.”
For decades, Regan has established himself as a nationally viable and widely accessible act. He first honed his craft at open mics and in comedy clubs across the country before earning the opportunity to open for comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld during a dichotomous time when both Seinfeld was at his peak with his self-titled sitcom was the hottest show on television. It was that experience touring with Seinfeld, who despite the success of his show, continued to tour the country and place stand-up comedy as his primary expressive art form, that would inspire Regan to also want to land a sitcom, if only to draw bigger audiences to his stand-up shows.
“When I first started it seemed like the thing that made a comedian successful was if they got a sitcom. It was like you got to a certain point where the powers that be say, ‘This person should have a sitcom.’ I wanted to get a sitcom, not even because I really cared about a sitcom. I just liked it because it represented the trophy that you could hold up to say, ‘Hey, look. I was a pretty good standup comedian.’
“Then I was able to open for Jerry Seinfeld. It was my first time performing in a theater. It was such a tremendous experience that my new goal then became to perform in theaters. It was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I still kind of wanted a sitcom, but so that I could get enough of a draw where I could perform in theaters. I was fortunate enough to be able to make that jump to theaters, just because I had enough of a following. When I was able to do that, it was like, ‘Woah! I need this sitcom thing like I need a hole in the head. I’m already performing in these places!'”
The Interrobang‘s Joe Engelbrekt attended Regan’s live taping at the iconic Radio City Music Hall. It was Engelbrekt’s first time seeing Regan perform live, which he compared to seeing LeBron James play basketball live. According to Engelbrekt, much like King James on a basketball court, while a general understanding exists that Regan is one of, if not the best, stand-up comics alive, one does not truly appreciate the mastery of Regan’s craft until seeing it before your eyes.
While Regan’s style and subject matter have led many to label the comic a “clean comedian,” a distinction Regan himself bristles at. He states that he simply does his own style but appreciates all forms and range of comedy. It is that same style that has led middle America to feel safe bringing their family to his shows, David Letterman to have Regan perform on the Late Show a record 28 times, and now, Comedy Central to trust Regan with a live performance with no concerns about profanity, vulgarity, or misstep.
Regan did not disappoint.
Bereft of the luxury most comics have of filming multiple shows and editing the best bits together, Regan, ever the professional, crafted a deliberate set that built to a frenetic and energetic finale. And he came in right on time, and delivered precisely what the network, and the audience expected from him: an hour of solid, if safe, old school, professional stand-up comedy.
[Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Comedy Central]