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What's the deal with … Brian Regan?
If you ask comedian Regan why he's so popular locally on the eve of his record-setting 10-show Abravanel Hall stand Jan. 18-28 he'll be no help.
"If you asked 100 Americans about me, 98 would have no idea who I am," Regan, 54, said. "It's different when I go to get a sandwich in Salt Lake City."
How can that be? Regan is far from a household word, having avoided TV and movies that generally launch comedians into the popular culture zeitgeist.
Yes, he's a clean comic, and that can account for some portion of the more than 25,000 tickets being sold for his Salt Lake City run. In addition, Regan recorded his 2010 comedy album "All By Myself" in front of an adoring Abravanel Hall crowd, so it has been obvious for a while that he's a local comedy superstar.
But Jerry Seinfeld, too, is generally a clean comic, and also a comedy icon. And it's Seinfeld's 2005 record of four shows that Regan broke the last time he performed at Abravanel Hall.
"Doing 10 shows isn't something I contend with regularly," said Regan, who has never lived in Utah and isn't member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "It's an aberration. It's very flattering. I've never looked at my work schedule and seen it look like this."
Then, he added with a laugh: "I feel like a nine-show guy. Ten's more than I think I can do."
This historic engagement began a bit more modestly. Back in September, show promoter United Concerts scheduled four Regan shows. They were way off.
Those four shows sold out immediately, and when more shows were quickly added, all the tickets were snatched up. As of last week, there were only a few tickets left, said Dave McKay, vice president of United Concerts.
"Salt Lake City has truly embraced Brian as their favorite comedian," McKay said.
Utah comedian Keith Stubbs owns the Wasatch Front's Wiseguys clubs and hosts a morning show on country station The Eagle 101.5 FM. "This is truly unprecedented," Stubbs said. "He doesn't have a following like this in other, comparable markets."
He's popular elsewhere, too, touring more than 80 cities each year, attracting audiences at large theaters. And David Letterman is a fan he has had Regan on his show more than 20 times.
Ryan Hamilton, a New York-based comic who graduated from Brigham Young University, has opened for Regan. "He's clean, and he's fun in a way that Utah's culture enjoys," Hamilton said. "It's a phenomenon, but it's not surprising, because he's great."
Hamilton added: "I wish I knew how to crack the code."
Regan, a Miami native, said one of his first comedy idols was the notoriously foul-mouthed Richard Pryor. But Regan developed his own clean style, he said, because "it's more truthful for me."
He grew up well-adjusted in the suburbs with seven siblings, played Little League baseball, and was in spelling bees, all topics that he frequently returns to for material. He studied accounting at Ohio's Heidelberg College and played on the football team there, but dropped out during his last semester to pursue a career in stand-up comedy.
A road comic for more than three decades, Regan has crafted a well-honed on-stage persona that could be described as a likeable, affable everyman, in part because the repeated butt of his own jokes is himself. He riffs not about sex or race, but trips to see the optometrist, and shipping packages at UPS. Regan simply tells stories, eschewing one-liners that can sometimes be perceived as creating a wall between the audience and performer.
The only problem left for Regan is to find ways to pass the time in between his Abravanel shows. When told the Sundance Film Festival was coinciding with his engagement, he laughed, and said, "I never get around to seeing movies. People will talk about 'Chariots of Fire,' and I will say, 'Don't ruin the ending!' "
Ba dum dum. He'll be here all week, folks. Really.
This is Regan country
Comic Brian Regan is scheduled to perform a record 10 shows in Salt Lake City.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $40.50 and $45.50 at ArtTix and SmithsTix
When • Jan. 18, 19, 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, & 28, at 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 21 and Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. at ArtTix and SmithsTix.
Info • Recommended for ages 8 and up
Humor from Brian Regan:
• "My parents didn't know what to do with me. They got me into Little League baseball. I played out in right field, because I stunk. Coach: "Are you any good?" Young Brian:"I dunno, my mom sent me ..." "Well, go to right field." "Oh, OK." "Turn around, you moron!" "Oh, OK." (Turns around all the way.) "Not the whole way!" "Oh, just some?"
• "I played softball recently. They call it softball, makes it sound like it's harmless, you know. You ever take a line shot to the face with a softball? You don't go "Hey, that's Downy Soft. That was like a big ball of cotton! Hey, don't worry about that! That's Blood Light! We're playing softball, we're all going to float around like angels!"
• "Cranberries [are] getting in all the other juices. Whoever the salesman is for cranberries is doing a great job. He's showing up everywhere. Hey, what do you got, some apples? Put some cranberries in there. We'll call it cran-apple and go 50-50. What do you got, grapes? How about cran-grape. What do you got, mangos? Cran-mango. What do you got, pork chops? Cran-chops. Why don't you back off, cran-man? Why don't you take your sales trophy and have a vacation?"