Brian Regan is definitely in the running on any list of America’s favorite stand up comedian. His fanbase is gigantic, he’s beloved by millions, and he may be the comic most universally revered by other comedians. Everyone who matters thinks Regan should have had a shot at a tv show by now, making the big question- why doesn’t Brian Regan have a television show?
He does now –or at least he will on December 24th when Stand Up and Away goes live on Netflix– and fans have Jerry Seinfeld to thank for finally making it happen. Seinfeld is the EP of the series, but says he didn’t really have much creative input. He told Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show that he always wanted Regan to have his own show. “We love him,” Seinfeld said. “He’s the funniest guy. I can’t deal with the jungle of network television and the layers of people so I said let me bring you to Netflix they will do it right. I’m not really doing the show. I just brought Brian there and said you gotta do a show with this guy.”
The show is a unique hybrid of stand up, sketch, and conversation. Regan takes the stage, talks to the audience, and gives his fans something they’ve wanted for a long time- a place to hear classic stand up bits without having to scavenge old albums, specials and YouTube videos. And the real fun comes after each classic bit when Brian cuts to brand new digital short sketches inspired by his classic bits. There’s also Q&A, and a producer sidekick, and its all good clean Brian Regan fun. I spoke to Brian about the new series, where the idea came form, and how he got Jerry Seinfeld on board.
“Seinfeld contacted me, which in itself, is like an amazing honor.” Regan said. Seinfeld had seen Regan’s Radio City stand up special, which was broadcast live, and reached out to tell him how much he enjoyed it. “And then, on the phone call, he said that he’d always felt I should have a TV show.” Regan said Jerry didn’t have an idea for a show, but suggested they get together soon to come up with possibilities. Regan was honored that Jerry would take interest in him, and proposed getting together in a couple of months when Jerry would be performing in Vegas.
“I met him over at his hotel, and we go up into his room and he reiterated that I should have a show. And I’m going out of my mind in my head,” Regan said. “I’m like, guy with the greatest sitcom in the history of television is telling me that I should have a show. So, I’m just flattered, and he said “Why don’t we just both kick it around in our head and see if we could come up with something?”
Regan already had an idea. “I said, I have an idea. And he goes Really? I said Yeah. I said If you don’t mind, wait ’til we order some room service and get some coffee…. For some reason, I think he likes coffee,” Regan said. “One thing I know about this guy, I know he likes coffee. So, I said how about we get some coffee, and I’d love to share the idea with you.” Fifteen minutes later the coffee arrives, and Brian pitched the idea. “I had a tight little spiral, man. I pitched it in about three minutes, ’cause it’s a pretty easy premise. And he said I like it. Let’s do it.”
“And, that’s not how television works, you know? Usually, you’d say “Well, let me talk to my people, you talk to your people. And we’ll circle …” And when he said Let’s do it. I literally got a tear in my eye. I got a little emotional ’cause then I was like Wow. It just happened. And he said are you okay? I said Yeah. It’s crazy, the way this is falling together. It’s just amazing to me, and I don’t know how to thank you.” Soon after that, they brought the idea to Netflix. “And next thing you know we’re making the darn thing.”
When he was putting the series together, there were a few things that were important. Both Brian and Jerry agreed that they didn’t want to make sketch versions of stand up bits. That’s something that’s been done before in both animated and live action versions. “We both really love stand up. So the bits, any stand up bit, I wanted it to remain a stand up bit, where I’m just doing stand up comedy. And then, any sketch is a standalone. It’s like an idea that can be done in a sketch format,” he said. For example, rather than take the school routine and act it out, they wanted to create offshoots inspired by the stand up for the sketch segments. “Our hope is that, if there are fans out there who like the stand up, not only do they wanna see the stand up again, but they might be intrigued, going “I wonder what kinda sketch they would do after this?” So, we’re hoping that that curiosity factor will help us as well.”
Regan’s stand up is timeless, and he has a string of classic bits that fans not only repeat but have always wanted to hear again and again. But in stand up there is no precedent for a greatest hits collection, and most performers stay away from repeating older bits once they’ve moved on to new material. But Regan’s fans have his classic bits memorized and to hear him do “stupid in school” would be like hearing Springsteen play Rosalita. And that’s what inspired the idea for Stand Up and Away.
“It’s kinda weird with comedy. The whole expression ‘comedy has to have a surprise.’ And it’s weird to me that, for whatever reason, sometimes, my comedy, people are okay with knowing the surprise and still wanting to hear it again anyway,” he said. He prefers to move forward and replace material with new stuff, but says he always loved that fans were still interested in hearing familiar bits again and again. He pointed to the school routine, and the emergency room bit as examples. That got him thinking- what would be a way to explore the old material, without just doing a retread on stage. “We thought why don’t we do where I’m doing stand up, like older bits but then those can lead into sketches? So, it was kind of a fun formula to go after,” he said. “And I hope it works. I mean, we’re happy with how it turned out. We’ll have to see what people think.”
One of the first classics he knew he wanted to record was his famous “I walked on the moon” bit. “I always was fascinated with the fact that three astronauts went to the moon, and only two went down and one had to circle. And I just thought, ego wise, that had to be such a downer for the guy circling the moon. But he was just as much of a hero as everybody else. So, I wanted to make a sketch about a guy like that who just … His ego overtakes himself, and he doesn’t want the other two guys to talk when they come back from the moon. But that was something that I had envisioned even before we were able to shoot the show. And to be able to actually shoot it was pretty cool.”
On episode of Stand Up and Away Brian is joined by a sidekick named Beth who Brian discovered on an iPhone commercial, and there’s also a Q&A segment where Brian talks with the audience, inspired by the queen of tv Q&A herself- Carol Burnett. “I was always a fan of The Carol Burnett Show, when at the end of her show, she would take questions from the audience. And as a kid, it fascinated me to realize Oh, there’s an audience there, and she’s a real person and these are real fans, and they’re asking her questions. And I like that she broke that fourth wall. So, I wanted that component in the show, and that’s why we threw in the Q&A thing in the episodes.” Brian said that during the editing there was a push to cut the Q&A to really streamline the episodes, but he fought to keep them. “I said “No, man. I want the audience to know who the guy is that’s thinking of these things. And that was very important to me, that we break the fourth wall in each episode to go “Oh, he’s a real guy.”
All four episodes were taped in front of Regan’s fans rather than a tv audience. He wanted to perform in front of people who know and love the bits that would form the structure of the series. “It was so cool because when I would go into a bit, I’d look out in the audience and I’d see people nudging each other with the elbow…And I’m like “Wow.” It was very, very fulfilling and flattering and all of that.”
Aside from seeing Brian perform “walk on the moon”, longtime Regan fans can look forward to seeing “stupid in school”, “UPS”, “why dogs bark”, “donuts” and “black coffee” among others, and it’s so much fun to see Brian performing in character.
Brian Regan’s new sketch/stand up series Stand Up and Away premieres on Netflix on Christmas Eve, a perfect Christmas gift for Regan fans of any age. You can also see Brian starring alongside Ron Livingston in the second season of Peter Farrelly’s critically acclaimed TV series, Loudermilk. Peter personally cast Brian in the role of “Mugsy” after seeing him perform live for the first time. Brian also has a two-special deal with Netflix. His first special, Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, premiered on Nov 21, 2017, with Vanity Fair calling Brian, “The funniest stand–up alive,” and Entertainment Weekly calling Brian, “Your favorite comedian’s favorite comedian.” Brian’s second Netflix special will premiere in 2019. If you want to see him alive (and of course you do), Brian recently announced his 2019 spring tour dates including his debut at The Kennedy Center. Get more info and dates at brianregan.com.