Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

So Fresh, So Clean: Stand-up Brian Regan Continues His Rise in the Comedy Ranks By Playing It Safe


  • Friedman Bergman
You won’t see stand-up Brian Regan bat an eyelash when a fellow comedian drops one of George Carlin’s original “Seven Dirty Words” during a gig. Hell, Regan is even OK when his character Mugsy on his comedy TV series Loudermilk is called a “dickhead” and a “dumb fuck” to his face in one episode. And don’t even ask what comes out of Regan’s own mouth when he hits a golf ball into a sand trap.

But an F-bomb in the middle of one of his stand-up performances? It might’ve happened when he first took the stage in the early 1980s, but today Regan is known in the industry for keeping it super clean. Just watch his 2017 Netflix stand-up comedy special Nunchucks and Flamethrowers and you’ll see how inoffensive he is. There are jokes about gaining weight, the scoring system in tennis, baseball umpires and how a “good dad” should be sent to the West Bank to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If Regan was to perform the world-famous “Aristocrats” joke, his improvisation would include the featured family knitting sweaters or eating pimento cheese sandwiches in front of the talent agent. And that’s exactly what his fans expect: wholesome and harmless fun — a comedy show your granny or 10-year-old nephew would enjoy.

With a wide-ranging audience, Regan’s approach to his comedy is going extremely well. Along with comedian Jim Gaffigan, he is one of the most popular clean standups working today. With that recognition comes the opportunity to work on TV shows like Loudermilk, currently in its second season and already picked up for a third, and a new Netflix sketch-comedy show, Stand Up and Away! With Brian Regan, debuting next month and executive produced by Jerry Seinfeld.

Last week, Regan spoke to the Current about his decision to go clean, how he confronts politics in his show and why the world needs dirty comedians.

Did the choice to go clean happen at the beginning of your career?
It wasn’t a conscious choice even in the beginning. I was always mostly clean anyway, because that’s how I think comedically. At the beginning, I had some four-letter words and sexual references in my act, but I was always about 95 percent clean. I thought it was silly to be dirty for five percent of my show. I decided to go completely clean, not because I’m wholesome, but because I’m OCD. I want [my act] to be 100 percent something.

Some people might say a perfectly timed F-bomb in a joke or argument can really get a point across. Do you agree or disagree?

I agree. There are people who work blue (read: profane) who are great. I’m not opposed to that kind of comedy. I think — just like in all entertainment forms — there are different ways of going after it. I want to see how hard I can get people laughing without giving them that F-bomb. I don’t want to feel like they’re laughing at the F word. I know how to say it. I can say it with the best of them, especially when I’m golfing, but I don’t like it in my act.

What about comedians who overdo it and use expletives as a crutch?
There might be some who use it as a crutch, but there are some who use it because it’s organic and truthful to them. I don’t judge most comedians who work blue. That’s just the direction they want to take. George Carlin and Richard Pryor used four-letter words and they were great. It’s just different styles.

You cuss on Loudermilk, so what’s the difference?
To me, it’s a different world. There’s my stand-up comedy — the way I like to do it — and then there is a show like Loudermilk that is somebody else’s creative vision. It’s earthy and real and dark and twisted. I like serving that world, too, as an actor. If there are people out there who don’t want to hear foul language, they probably shouldn’t watch Loudermilk.

How much politics do you include in your show?
I like to touch on it, but I don’t like to get preachy. I like to do the kind of jokes that both sides can laugh at. I want everyone to feel welcomed in my audience.

Do you worry if you stray too far to the left or right, you could lose half of them?
Comedically, I want to walk a line. I don’t do it out of fear. I don’t want to be a slave to what I feel the audience wants from me. My job is to tell them what I want to tell them, but I choose to do stuff that both sides can laugh at. I don’t come in on a white horse saying, “People should do comedy the way I do it!” There should be all kinds of comedians and all kinds of stuff going on. That’s why a circus has three rings.

Brian Regan
$55-$65, 7:30pm Thu, Dec. 6, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle, (210) 223-8624,

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