This semester, the Lied Center for Performing Arts has hosted an impressive lineup of comedians, including Lewis Black, Nick Offerman and Tom Segura. Renowned comic Brian Regan rounded out the comedically-gifted group Monday night when he performed on the Lied Center stage.
Making his return to the Lied Center after a sold-out show in 2016, Regan is a well-known standup — he was named “the funniest standup alive” by Vanity Fair. Regan has released seven hour-long comedy specials, including Netflix’s “Nunchucks and Flamethrowers,” and has made appearances on the comedy series “Loudermilk” and Jerry Seinfeld’s candid Netflix talk show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” He is known for being a clean comic, as his sets are largely profanity-free and family-friendly.
Before Regan took the stage, fellow comedian Gary Brightwell performed a 30 minute set, providing a very solid opening act, warming up the crowd and evoking consistent laughs. Like Regan, he was mostly clean with his comedy, telling jokes about what Halloween is like for farm kids and his difficult adjustment to living with his girlfriend.
However, some of his bits either went on too long or didn’t quite hit the mark. For example, a large chunk of the middle of his act consisted of making fun of different television shows such as “Jeopardy,” “Dr. Pimple Popper” and “Tiny House Hunters.” There were amusing qualities to his lampooning of these programs, but the bits got repetitive quickly. He also accidentally mixed up the punchline of a joke by telling it too soon, but he recovered nicely, roasting himself for his mistake.
Following a 20-minute intermission at the conclusion of Brightwell’s set, Regan finally came out to warm applause from the Lied Center audience. Wearing a casual blazer, Regan began his performance by poking fun at his own obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety, comically chronicling how he has to arrange books in order of when he read them and how he ruins parties with his awkwardness.
Regan utilized that awkwardness to his advantage at the beginning of his performance, giving off the vibe of a comedic everyman who could relate to anyone in the audience. His propensity to remain clean and stay away from any political issues — besides gun control, which he made a point to establish that he was uncommitted on — aided his stage personality, helping him stay neutral in an attempt to connect with the audience.
This strategy definitely worked toward the beginning of his set while he was introducing himself to the audience, admitting tales of personal quirks and oddities. But as his set went on, he unfortunately never moved past this shtick — his neutrality morphed into tedium.
While not all comedians structure their sets around different stories, some sort of narrative element can be helpful in keeping the audience engrossed. Regan seemed to have no interest in such a structure, as his set mostly jumped from joke to joke with no connection between them. There was no time for a joke to build to a satisfying punchline or even settle after it was told — Regan just moved into the next topic with a quick pause and a shift in his posture.
While amusing at moments, Regan’s set left much to be desired. His stylings mostly seemed to entertain the largely middle-aged audience, but felt unsatisfying. An overall lack of comedic risk permeated his performance, leading to a blase evening of middling standup full of unrealized potential.