A stand-up keeps it clean and cleans up

Posted: June 07, 2007

Brian Regan is a sweet guy who loves his family and won't snark on Paris Hilton.

Despite those handicaps, he's funny. Funny enough to sell out theaters across the country. Funny enough to move 100,000 CDs. Funny enough to land his own Comedy Central special, at 10 p.m. Sunday.

What gives?

"I never found someone else's pain funny," says Regan, who performs at the Tower Theater Saturday. "I like everybody to be happy. I'm not the type of person who likes to watch people twist in the wind."

Then please, don't sit next to us.

Like Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres, Regan's humor is G-rated and observational. His generic topics are instantly relatable, from specialized greeting cards to lost baggage to drivers using cell phones.

Oh, he also does funny faces and goofy voices.

Coincidentally, Regan opened for Seinfeld a few times on tour. Sharing the bill "was sort of like being knighted," Regan says. "He's one of the purest stand-ups out there."

Unlike most stand-ups, however, Regan, 49, harbors no secret ambition for sitcom stardom. Though he's developing a sketch show for Comedy Central, his true passion lies in live theater.

"I'd be happy to do stand-up my whole career, without a doubt," he says. "I love everything about it. The energy of the crowd, the immediate feedback. I can find out that night whether or not a joke is funny."

Another plus: He's his own boss - a good thing for someone who has "an incredible problem with authority." He decides what he wants to say and how he wants to say it. He's director, producer, star.

Regan never set out to be a "clean" comedian. It just happened that way.

When he first went on the road, his shows were already 90 percent clean, he says. Occasionally, when he did the whole set without any naughty words, he invariably got compliments from people in the audience.

"Those were the jokes I preferred, anyway," he says. "The others were just attention grabbers. If I was that close to the finish line, why not go all the way clean?"

Not that Regan's ready to join Up With America. Beneath that milk-fed exterior, he says, "I am the spawn of Satan.

"I do think dirty thoughts, and I'm capable of being really raunchy. If your fans have any idea how dark and twisted your brain is, they'd probably run for the exits. I like to think I'm a pretty good guy."

Even pretty good guys mine their families for bits, but Regan avoids using his wife and their two small kids as fodder "unless it's endearing. I wouldn't want to burden them with a lifetime of therapy."

Speaking of therapy, Regan's childhood would make for great bathroom humor.

The fourth of eight children, he grew up in Miami in a home with one shower. On school mornings, showers were limited to two minutes. Dad, an accountant, held the egg timer.

For the morbidly curious, Brian's showers aren't timed anymore. This generation of Regans can shower whenever and for as long as they please. In his home in Las Vegas, he has four - one for each member of the family.

Another fun fact: The Regans' six boys and two girls took to professions like passengers on Noah's Ark: in twos. Two firefighters; two teachers; two salesmen. And Regan's older brother, Dennis, became a stand-up seven years after Brian broke in.

Want one more? Of course you do. Regan played wide receiver on Heidelberg College's football team. Their nickname: the fighting Student Princes.

Fighting Student Princes? We're just spitballing here, but the name alone may have influenced his decision to drop out his senior year and pursue a comedy career.

No sale.

"I think people like Albert Einstein and myself got bored with conventional schooling and found different ways to test our brains," he says.

"Since Einstein had already come up with that relativity theory, I decided to quit school and make goofy faces. So far, it has all worked out pretty well."

Contact TV columnist Gail Shister at 215-854-2224 or gshister@phillynews.com. Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/gailshister.

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