When it comes to politics, comedian Brian Regan usually avoids the subject in his stand-up. Uproarious stories about spelling bees and growing up with seven brothers and sisters in Florida are strewn throughout his numerous albums and taped specials, but Donald Trump? The Clintons? You would have to search far and wide throughout Regan’s significant body of work to find any direct mentions of either — let alone politics in general. Even among his 28 appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, you would be hardpressed to find anything.
Enter Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, the first of two comedy specials Regan will premiere exclusively on Netflix. The majority of the new hours features the comic’s trademark takes on everything from becoming a father to his aging father’s unique brand of humor. Yet it also features a few brief forays into the undeniably timely topic of American politics, though not in the same direct manner as comics like Judah Friedlander or Patton Oswalt. As Regan explained to us, he wants “people on both sides to enjoy” his comedy. “I might try to sneak a few little points in there,” he says, “but nothing too divisive.”
I missed your Carnegie Hall performance during the New York Comedy Festival this month. How’d it go?
It was cool, man. I ended up crowd surfing, which is not something you would normally do in a comedy show. It was a tremendous experience. The place is obviously historic and iconic, and to be able to stand on that stage is pretty amazing. When I was backstage I was looking around at all the posters of all the people who had performed there, all the pictures they had from previous shows, I thought to myself, “What happened in my life that I’m going out on that stage?” It’s a strange experience, but a very rewarding one, too.
I assume that show featured a lot of new material since Nunchucks and Flamethrowers is out on Netflix.
Yes. I have a deal for two specials with Netflix. The first one I recorded a few months back, and it will be coming out Tuesday, so I’m already in the process of beginning to try and move away from that and replace it. But it’s hard to do it on a dime. It takes a while. For the Carnegie show, about 60 percent of it was probably from the special. Maybe 50 percent. I don’t know. Little by little, you add some things and you drop some things. You keep doing that over a certain period of time, and hopefully, by the time the next special is due, the new hour will be ready to go.
How much time will you typically spend crafting a new hour?
Well, it depends on when the next one is due. The previous one, Live From Radio City Music Hall, came out about two years ago. It was a live special for Comedy Central. So with two years to spare, I already had a tight turnaround for Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, and now I have another tight turnaround for the second Netflix special, but I like it. It motivates me. I like to write, anyway. I like to create stuff. But knowing there’s a specific date I have to have it finished by gives me that extra incentive. But if it doesn’t work out, my ace in the hole is that I come out, do one joke, and then pretend like the audience has been laughing at that joke for 59 minutes. I’ll just stand there sheepishly like, “Aww, come on folks! I know it’s funny, but it’s not that funny.” It’ll be 50 minutes of cutaways to people in the audience howling at that one joke.
Speaking of audience cutaways, viewers at home don’t always realize what goes into filming a stand-up show. The cameras, the equipment, the outtakes — it’s all there. So I was pleased to see you include a brief window into that process during the credits when you repeatedly flub that one line.
I appreciate it. We did a few shows and cobbled it together Frankenstein-style for the special. During one show in particular, I completely flubbed the easiest sentence in the English language. I was trying to say, “I don’t know what it is about people,” and for whatever reason, my brain and my tongue said, “This isn’t going to be as easy as you think.” It came out all goofy, and I was trying to fix it, and I went off on a tangent about the lights. Sometimes, those moments are fun where you’re off-roading. I’m nowhere near the highway, but it’s bumpy and it’s still fun.