My son Watson is a Brian Regan superfan. "Mom, Brian Regan is just about the best comedian there ever was," he informed me on the way to school the other morning. Because he's 11, he doesn't have that much experience with comedians. Most "work blue," i.e. use profanity or talk about risque subject matter, and there aren't many good ones who don't. A comic since the '90s, Regan has that goofball, silly-but-smart brand of stand-up that appeals to all age groups but especially to my son. His bits about being a dumb kid, flubbing spelling bees ("because up until that day I was an idiot, but nobody knew it"), and growing up with seven brothers really resonate with him. Last year, Watson spent months memorizing Regan's routines and working on his own jokes. When I got the email with the opportunity for Watson to interview Regan, ahead of the comedian's two performances at the Hippodrome this Friday and Saturday, I almost jumped out of my chair! Working for the City Paper has its perks. (Athena Towery)
Watson Sterner: You had a comic strip in college, right?
Brian Regan: Yes, that's correct.
WS: Why did you stop and go into stand-up?
BR: I wanted to continue doing the comic strip. I tried to get it syndicated, which means put in newspapers throughout the country, and I sent some examples to a syndication company, and they sent me a rejection letter! I wasn't smart enough at the time to realize you shouldn't let rejection letters stop you. I thought that rejection letter meant I was not allowed to be a cartoonist in this world, so I put the rejection letter down and said, well, I'll be a stand-up comedian.
WS: Did you enjoy being a part of [the Chris Rock-directed movie] "Top Five"?
BR: I enjoyed it a lot. I normally do stand-up comedy, so doing a movie was very new and different for me, and my scene was very short so I was able to shoot my scene in one afternoon in New York City. It was really interesting; it seemed like hundreds of people around with cameras and lights and makeup and wardrobe and all kinds of stuff going on, which is so different from what being a stand-up comedian is like, and I really enjoyed the experience. Chris Rock was great to work with, and I was happy to be in the movie. It was new for me and I enjoyed it a lot.
WS: What was your favorite experience you had shooting the movie?
BR: Well, it's nice working with other comedians. Chris Rock knew who I was, and when we finished shooting the scene the way it was scripted, he wanted to do just some ad-libbed stuff—that's where you just kind of wing stuff that's not on the script. It was nice to be done with the scene but still be there, and they put the cameras on and the sound on and they just had us play around. That was Chris Rock's idea, and it felt really cool to have another comedian trust you enough to feel like you might be able to come up with something off the top of your head, and I'm pretty sure they used some of the stuff we just played around with in the final scene. It was a lot of fun.
WS: So, I heard you have a record of eating 11 doughnuts.
BR: (laughs) Well, it's my own personal record. There might be people out there who have eaten more, but that's my personal best.
WS: Do you plan on beating it?
BR: (laughs) Well, you know, it's not a good idea healthwise to try to beat those kinds of records. But you know, for the most part I try to be healthy and I try to get on the treadmill every now and then, but every once in a while I can't resist the urge to go buy a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Who knows, maybe one day in my future I'll be able to break the record.
WS: Speaking of "Top Five," what are your top five doughnuts?
BR: My top five doughnuts . . . well, all five are chocolate iced Krispy Kreme doughnuts. That's what I like, though I can eat other kinds of doughnuts. In fact, people bring me doughnuts at shows, you know, because they've heard that I like doughnuts, and it's always an honor when people want to do something like that, but I think they think I like a wide variety of doughnuts. I really only like the one kind of doughnut. That's my favorite. Krispy Kreme chocolate iced doughnuts. And there's nothing more disappointing than going through the drive-thru and ordering a dozen Krispy Kreme chocolate iced doughnuts, bringing them home, opening them up, and realizing they goofed it up and gave me the wrong doughnuts. That's a very sad day in my life.
WS: From all your shows, recent and past, what was your favorite opening act?
BR: Well, I did a charity show in New York City, and I had to follow Bruce Springsteen. You know, it's a little unfair to call him my opening act (laughs). I'm sure he doesn't put on his resume that he opened for Brian Regan. But I had to follow him, and it's pretty challenging having to go on after Bruce Springsteen. Again, I wouldn't define him as my opening act but I did go on right after him and it was pretty bizarre.
WS: How many times have you been to Baltimore?
BR: I don't know off the top of my head. Since I started doing theaters, larger venues, they say you really shouldn't go back any sooner than a year and a half from the previous time, because you don't want people to see an ad in the newspaper and say, "Wasn't he just here?" You want people to see an ad and go, "Oh wow, great; he's back! I have to go see him again." So I would guess, over the years—I used to play comedy clubs years ago—I've probably been in Baltimore 20 times, maybe more over the years.
WS: Whoa. So what was your favorite thing about Baltimore?
BR: Well, you know, it's a cool city. Isn't that the one that has the Inner Harbor?
BR: I stayed in a hotel right across the street from the Inner Harbor and I remember going for walks around that and it was really cool. I enjoyed it. And I also have seen a baseball game or two at Camden Yards, and I know that was the first major league stadium to go with a throwback version of a stadium and it inspired stadiums throughout the country to redo their looks. It's a great stadium. I also like the people of Baltimore. My tour manager is from Baltimore and he's really looking forward to this weekend.
WS: Are you excited about your upcoming shows?
BR: I'm always excited about my upcoming shows. I love what I do; I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do, and I never get tired of it. In fact, every time I'm backstage before a show and I feel the murmur of the crowd, it's just incredibly exciting. And I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do this for a job. It's a great life.
WS: Do you have any comedian friends?
BR: Sure. A lot of my friends are comedians because that's what I do all the time, so I tend to be around comedians. You know, I don't like to throw names out there and try to act like a bigshot but, you know, there are some comedians out there that you may have heard of who I get to hang out with every now and then and it's kind of cool.
WS: So . . . have you ever stole any jokes from them?
BR: (laughs) No, no, no. It's really not cool to steal jokes from anybody. It's not cool to steal anything from anybody. Jokes are no different. There's a term called "intellectual property," which means ideas and concepts are things that people can own. If you thought of a poem, say, or a joke or a song, if you wrote it, Watson, that would be yours. Let's say you wrote a poem and you did it in front of a class, and then somebody heard you do that poem and wrote it down and then went on and told that poem, and somebody wanted to give them a TV show or something based on that poem, they took that from you. So it's not cool to take anything from anybody, including ideas. So no, I don't take jokes from other people.
WS: Have you ever been interviewed by an 11-year-old?
BR: (laughs) I've been interviewed by a few younger people here and there. I don't remember what their ages were; you might be the first 11-year-old. But I always enjoy talking with younger people. I have two kids myself; I have a boy who just turned 16 a couple days ago, and I have a daughter who's 11. So I love children, and I like doing interviews like this because it comes from a different perspective and you seem like a really smart young person and I enjoy talking with you. And I'm honored that you wanted to do this interview with me.
WS: (heavy breathing) Thank you.
BR: You're welcome.
Watson's dad: I think that's all the questions Watson had for you, so I don't know if there's anything else you wanted to say or how we wrap this up . . .
BR: I'll just reiterate what I said; I had a lot of fun doing this, Watson. Do you do a lot of interviews? How did this come about? I'm curious.
WS: Well, I came home from school and my dad told me that I got a chance to interview Brian Regan.
Dad: His mom works for the City Paper.
WS: And I just said yes.
BR: Well, beautiful. I really appreciate it. And you did a good job; you had all your questions organized. You had some good questions, and I think you're going to grow up to be a fine human being.
WS: Thank you. I am also a very big fan of you.
BR: That means a lot to me. I really, really appreciate that. Hopefully one day if you check out a show, or if you come to the Baltimore show, let me know and we can get you backstage so I can say hello.
WS: Thank you.
BR: Well I appreciate it very much, and thank you both. You guys have a great day.