Brian Regan at the Chicago Theatre | Comedy review
Tue Jan 22 2013
Brian Regan is amazing. Unlike many comedians who use stand-up as a vehicle to get that first TV sitcom pilot, Regan has focused his career on exclusively performing stand-up, and people love him for it. He’s a favorite among other comedians and plays sold-out shows all over the country. He's known as a master at authentically connecting with his audiences, and this show proved that to once again be true. (In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a longtime fan.)
The show started out as the opener, Tom Ryan, walked out on stage with all of the excitement of an exhausted uncle being made to repeat his jokes to the family one more time before dinner. It didn’t matter if his energy level was at a zero or that he was wearing light-colored dad jeans among an audience of well-dressed event goers—his jokes were clever, and he quickly won over the audience with old-school premise-punchline humor.
The minute Brian Regan took the stage, it was clear why Tom Ryan was a great choice for an opener. Regan’s jokes come to life through exaggerated act-outs and goofball expressions that draw audiences instantly to his side. Every bit receives the same amount of passion and energy without a lull for the entire show. One of the most amazing aspects of Regan’s comedy is that he has hours upon hours of material, and all of it is squeaky clean. This was my first stand-up comedy show where children were in the audience, and I didn’t immediately want to call child services on their parents.
How does any comedian hold an audience’s attention (an audience that has been drinking!) without the occasional dirty joke to pull them back in? One of Regan’s greatest powers is being relatable. This couldn’t have been more apparent than during his jokes about bad party conversations, awkward elevator rides, and his fears on the dance floor. The moment he acknowledged the pain inflicted on restaurant staff when they are forced to sing "Happy Birthday" over and over to annoying, over-eager customers, the entire crowd broke into raucous applause. But more than just being relatable, Regan somehow finds new life in tired comedic topics. I worried he was falling back on old habits when he started talking about airports, a subject that has been beaten to death over and over by comedians since the birth of aviation, but he somehow found a new crevice to explore in an otherwise exhausted comedic space.
I’m not sure when comedians started doing the old rock-star encore, but I guess if you’re famous enough—why not? Thankfully, Regan didn’t force us to clap tirelessly for a finale that we all knew was bound to occur. As soon as he returned to the stage, the otherwise polite audience began screaming their favorite joke titles at an obviously surprised Regan. To his credit, he didn’t lash out at the hecklers, like many comedians do with relish. He just politely smiled and said, “It seems like I’ve lost control.” Somehow, this moment of awkward truth let the audience know that it was time to behave and they settled in for a few extra minutes of well-crafted material. The entire show ended strongly with a sincere standing-ovation. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Friday night.