Brian Regan is a stand-up comic and ... well, that sums it up.
You won't see him performing in comedy sketches, hosting late-night talk shows or playing the crazy sidekick in a sitcom or feature film — all of which are opportunities that many stand-up comics have jumped at to take the next big step in their careers.
That's because for Regan, the level he has reached in stand-up comedy is the big one: performing sold-out shows to audiences of thousands, which happens when you're one of the most popular stand-up acts in the country.
"I'm not interested at all in the star thing or celebrity. I'm motivated by laughs," Regan said.
Not only is Regan, 55, one of biggest draws in comedy — he occupies a unique place in that realm. During his three-plus decades in the business, his "clean" material and witty, goofy brand of observational humor have earned him the adoration of a wide spectrum of fans and the respect of some of the best comedians who have ever walked the planet. You don't get Jerry Seinfeld calling you one of his "favorite, favorite stand-up comedians" without knowing how to get a few laughs.
But for Regan, as for most comedians, it took a period of experimentation and struggle before he found what worked. The native of Miami dropped out of college his senior year at what is now Heidelberg University in Ohio to spend a year at the Comic Strip, a club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
During that time, he tried a bit of everything. A lot of it killed. But sometimes he'd bomb for a two weeks straight, making him doubt his decision.
"I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, are you delusional? You're up on stage and nobody is laughing," Regan said. "Luckily, I didn't quit."
What he did do was discover what worked. He found it more organic to focus on "clean" comedy. Whether it's his breakthrough album (1997's Brian Regan Live) or his latest work (2010's Brian Regan: All by Myself), the subject matter centers on his life and people's shared experiences, which get the Regan treatment, thanks to his offbeat take and animated physicality and delivery. It's obviously a hit with fans, but Regan said it's not tailored for anyone but himself.
"I guard against trying to figure out what audiences want. I try to figure out what I want to say," he said. "If the audience laughs, there's your act."
In addition to playing about 100 shows a year, Regan is a favorite guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. Having recently made his 25th appearance, Regan is grateful for the "nice booster shot" the exposure gives his career, but he's even more thankful for the excuse to have to create new material. He could easily rehash old Regan favorites about Fig Newtons and eye doctors and get a crowd howling, but this guy lives for stand-up comedy and the thrill of a great reaction to something new he created.
"I want people to come out to be like, wow, a lot of this stuff I've never seen before," he said. "It's that virgin-snow feeling. You're running around in the snow and you're making new footprints. It's a really cool endeavor. I love it."