Seriously funny: Comedy's no joke for veteran stand-up Regan

FARGO -- Among comics, Brian Regan has a reputation as a hard-working man, and that's earned him a lot of respect in the business. The 60-year-old funnyman was a regular on "Late Show with David Letterman," appearing 28 times from 1995 until the ...
Comedian Brian Regan brings his stand-up comedy to the Fargo Theatre Sunday night. Special to The Forum

FARGO - Among comics, Brian Regan has a reputation as a hard-working man, and that's earned him a lot of respect in the business.

The 60-year-old funnyman was a regular on "Late Show with David Letterman," appearing 28 times from 1995 until the program's final year in 2015. He's released five specials in the last decade and is scheduled for another to be released through Netflix next year.

Regan returns to the Fargo Theatre Sunday night, June 24, for his fourth show in town in eight years.

While having a cup of coffee ("blackity, black, black, black" is how he likes it) at his home in Las Vegas, he talks about the serious work that goes into making people laugh. Here's Regan's own words about the process.

As soon as I record an hour, whether it's a special or a DVD, or an album, I begin working away from that material. I figure that material is done and out there, and I start replacing it. But that's hard to do on a dime. It has to be a gradual process, so I would say, 60 percent of what I'm doing is not on that special (that came out last year).

But you still have jokes that you're hanging on to for dear life, because you know they get a big laugh. But at some point you have to let them go. Even if they work you have to let them go, even if they work, you have to let them go because it's time to replace them with something newer you need to massage and get into shape for the next hour.

I always have three simultaneous goals. I'm working on individual bits. I'm working on five-minute routines for TV appearances like "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" and I'm working on hours. So on a given night, all of those things are in play so I'm practicing that every night.

The audience doesn't know what I'm doing, but I know what I'm doing.

When you're doing an hour, once you've got the crowd on your side and they know what you're thinking, you can slip in things that are kind of obscure and get away with stuff like that that. A five-minute spot on a TV show needs to be leaner and meaner and tighter and a different kind of craft.

You walk out in front of a studio audience and they don't know who I am. I'm just some guy wearing a jacket and they know nothing other than that.

With comedy, the fun part is knocking down the pins. The hard part is setting them up to begin with. You walk out there, there are no pins set up. You have to quickly set them up and then knock them down. It's weird to come out into a room full of strangers, set something up quickly and get a laugh of it.

What's interesting about doing Letterman was that when I was first on, he would introduce you but not really endorse you. It was up to you to earn your laughs.

I try to be careful enough to have jokes that both sides can laugh at. That's my personal choice.

I like to be kind of vague so that people ask, "Where's he coming from?" and at the end of the joke, both sides say, "Oh, he agrees with me."

I want everyone who comes to my show to feel welcome. I want to do the kind of jokes where an audience member will say, "I'm glad I came here tonight." That doesn't mean I don't want to hit on subjects that people may think are controversial subjects. I like doing it in a way where you are able to touch on hot-button issues, but doing it in a way where you can disarm the bomb without it going off.

I love the process. It's fun. A night-after-night thing.

If you go

What: Brian Regan

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, June 24

Where: Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway, Fargo

Info: Tickets are $53, plus applicable fees; https://jadepresents.com or 866-300-8300