Very early in his comedy career, Brian Regan briefly considered developing a shtick, a gimmick that would help him stand out among all the other comics.
"I remember when I was just auditioning at the Comic Strip in Fort Lauderdale," Regan recalls from his home in Las Vegas. "I'm a pretty decent cartoonist. I can draw OK. And I thought maybe if I went on stage with a big easel and I drew things and talked about that, that would be fun. But I didn't even get past the thinking stage. I didn't have the assets to buy an easel. So I thought, I'm just going to have to talk."
8 p.m. Friday at the Orpheum theater, 203 S. Main. Tickets: $39.50, available at the box office and through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 901-525-3000 or visit orpheum-memphis.com.
Just talking, as he puts it, has served Regan, who performs Friday at Memphis' Orpheum theater, very well. Over a three-decade career, the 55-year-old has developed a reputation as the consummate comic's comic, a performer who excels not through the use of props or characters but solely on the merits of his wry, observational wit.
His fans include David Letterman, who hosted Regan last summer on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of "The Late Show"
"Dave Letterman was kind enough to comment on the fact that it was my 25th appearance," recalls Regan. "Usually I would think they'd rather just bring me out and let me do my stand-up without noting the occasion. I was expecting that when they said, no, he's going to mention it. It meant a lot to me that they seemed to embrace me over there at the show. I felt like I was kind of on their team."
Another admirer is Jerry Seinfeld, who recently featured Regan in a segment of his Web series "Comedian In Cars Getting Coffee." The two kindred comedic spirits go back to their early days on the comedy circuit, pre-"Seinfeld." It was Seinfeld's record of four shows at the Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, that Regan smashed in 2010 and bested again last year with a 10-night run.
The reason Regan thrives in the Mormon Mecca, and indeed throughout the heartland, is because of his reputation as a "clean" comic. The product of a stable Florida family — his brother Dennis is also a stand-up comic and his 86-year-old parents follow his career on their VHS player — Regan largely eschews profanity and the angsty edge of other comedians. Instead he is proud that he roots his humor in regular life.
"I just talk about anything and everything," says Regan, who dropped out of college in his senior year to become a stand-up. "I kind of like my comedy to come from an every person's perspective. It's just things that I see and experience and notice and witness."
The approach can lead to observations on anything from aging ("If something breaks on me it just kind of stays that way. Oh, my hip hurts. I guess forever") to eating ("I hear they're thinking of changing the shape of the food pyramid to make it easier. Easier than a triangle?) as heard on Regan's most recent comedy record, All By Myself, which is available on his website, brianregan.com.
But Regan says people shouldn't be lulled by his preoccupation with the mundane into thinking his act is some kind of comedic Up With People.
"The problem with the tag is that people get the wrong idea," he says. "A lot of people, if they don't know me or the kind of comedy I do and all they read is that I'm a clean comedian, they think it's this overly wholesome kind of vibe. I like to have a little boldness in my show. I like to think it can hit some nerves here and there."