Dennis Regan enjoys all aspects of being a comedian
Comedian Dennis Regan started doing stand-up because it scared him.
"It wasn’t like I said I wanted to become a comedian," Regan said during a phone call from his home in Los Angeles, Calif. "I was at a phase in my life where I started challenging myself to do things that I was afraid of."
Regan can’t remember what the other ones were, but they weren’t that harrowing, he said.
"Stand-up was one of them and I first did it at an open mic," he said. "It was one of the things that I could do that didn’t cost money. I mean, it costs money to bungee jump. It costs money to jump out of an airplane. But stand-up was something I could do for free."
For nearly 30 years, since that open mic, Regan has made people laugh through live shows, and appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," A&E’s "Evening at the Improv," Comedy Central and Showtime.
He also wrote for the Kevin James sitcom "The King of Queens," from its sixth season to its ninth and final season. And he’s also putting together a web series called "That Darn Dennis" that will be on YouTube in a few months.
Park City will get a chance to see Regan with Bryan Cork at the Egyptian Theatre, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 6 and 7, at 8 p.m.
Regan, who is the older brother of comedian Brian Regan, said he decided to continue doing comedy because he enjoyed all aspects of the job.
"It wasn’t just the act of being on stage and telling jokes," Dennis Regan said. "I really enjoyed the community and friends that I made."
He also thrived on thinking about the next bit.
"You’re only on stage for about five minutes and then a week later you go up for another five, but all the time in between, the wheels are turning about what will make people laugh," he said. "I like trying to come up with stuff."
Six months after his first open mic appearance, Regan felt like he could do comedy for a living.
"That was when I did well in front of a small crowd," he said. "There were 16 people in a big room, and the other comedians didn’t do well that night. That was a boost of confidence for me.
"I know a lot of people think it’s scary to get up in front of a large crowd, and that may be, but it’s the small crowds that have all that pressure," he said. "It’s an important part of the job if you can make them feel comfortable laughing in front of each other and then actually get them laughing."
One secret of making an audience laugh is structuring the joke, which is something that naturally comes to Regan.
"There is a science to jokes and I was never one of those guys who read the books about comedy and how to put a joke together," Regan said. "I was just kind of funny at my core.
"Structuring a joke isn’t too technical," he said. "It’s a matter of a set up and punch line. But since I’ve never read the book, I don’t even know how to explain it."
Another secret is to make sure everyone in the audience gets the joke at the same time.
"You also don’t want to step on your own laugh by giving the punch line and talking after it," Regan said. "Once you say the punch line, you need to shut up. Now, that’s not rocket science, but it’s amazing how some people still don’t get it."
Regan’s material comes from different quirks of life.
"For me, the richest vein is scenes that are annoying, bothersome and things people do that bug you and other people," he said. "I get a lot of mileage out of those sorts of things more than anything else."
However, stand-up artists need to be aware of what will make people laugh and what will just amuse themselves.
"When I was a kid, a guy could go onto the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ and do a seven-minute chunk about the TV show ‘Bonanza,’" Regan said. "It would be a hit and everyone would love it, except for maybe one person. I mean, everyone knew ‘Bonanza’ and everyone knew who Hoss was.
"Now, you really can’t go up and do a bit about whatever show is popular now and the reason is because the audience is so fragmented," he said. "I see younger and newer comedians do a joke about a show that is very important to them, and they think that show is just as important to others as it is to them. Then they wonder why the joke doesn’t get the laugh they thought it would."
Still, good comedians know when to tell a joke that appeals to that small portion of their audiences.
"That’s when you’ll win someone over for life because he or she will say, ‘That joke was just for me,’" he said. "Every joke can’t be for everyone, however, the trick is to keep the audience’s attention, so they won’t worry about the ones they didn’t get and try to focus on the ones they will."
While he enjoys and cherishes his appearances on TV, Regan said the biggest rewards of his career are performing in small clubs.
"These come from the shows in the tiny venues on Thursday nights where you have 125 people and you have them rolling," he said. "These are kind of like ephemeral moments in time that won’t last. It’s something special when you made this audience laugh really hard for a good amount of time."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present stand-up comedians Dennis Regan with Bryan Cork on Friday, Nov. 6, and Saturday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $29 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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