What makes funny? Milton Berle liked to claim it was a science, such as, he used to say, the "K" sound is funny and the number "3" is funny.
Ninety years ago, comedian George Jessel confused audiences with his one-hour routines of a one-sided phone conversation with his mom, which always ended in a request for money.
Don Rickles made a career out of insulting the audience. Andy Kaufman did his laundry on stage in silence while lying in a sleeping bag for an hour. Jim Gaffigan can talk about Hot Pockets until the Apocalypse (which may involve a Hot Pocket). Whatever "funny" is, it's always unique to the individual comic.
BRIAN FRIEDMAN Photo
Actress Ashley Pokorski stars in the upcoming musical, “Les Miserables.” Tickets will go on sale Monday for the August production
JACK GRACE photo
Although he may not be a household name, Brian Regan is a household face, and I'm pretty sure most of you are now looking at the photo and saying, "Oh, that guy." Regan holds the record for the most appearances by a comedian on David Letterman, and has been performing in comedy clubs and theaters all over America for over thirty years.
I spoke with Regan by phone last week, and asked him how he coordinates his grueling tour schedule.
"My tour started in 1984. It's been kind of like Gilligan's three-hour tour, we haven't fixed the boat yet."
Regan performs approximately 110 times per year.
"I do four one-nighters in a row and try to schedule them in cities near each other. Then I take a week and a half off and start again. That still leaves me with about 250 nights off a year, so it's really not overwhelming." Regan's Maui and Honolulu performances will also serve as a July 4th family vacation.
"I have been to Maui three times before and performed once at a corporate show, but this will be my first show for the public."
I asked if he was aware of the word, "haole," and if locals might think his act was haole humor.
"I've tried to make my act broad enough that it can work everywhere. When I started, I had trouble working in New York. I wasn't peculiar enough, but some New York comics can't play in the Midwest. I'm happy to be working with a Hawaiian comic, Kermet Apio, so hopefully there will be something for everyone - local humor and my craziness as well."
Regan has a reputation of being a clean comic. In March, I discussed clean comedy versus R-rated comedy with Bill Cosby, and I asked Regan to share thoughts on the debate. Cosby equated, "You have to be funny first," meaning if you can do both, then after that it's your choice.
"Being a so-called clean comic is not why I do what I do," said Regan. "I think of it as a medium, like a painter. Some prefer oils versus acrylics. That's how I'm comfortable being funny. The fact that it is clean is an asterisk to me. I just want them to laugh, and if an audience member comes up and says, 'And it was clean, too,' well that's a bonus."
The comedy world seems to have an unwritten code, whereas headliners and more seasoned comics help newcomers along. Regan opened for Jerry Seinfeld for many years and shared some of that experience.
"He was kind enough to invite me. This was before the TV show and he was big in the stand-up world, but not a household name. It was a blast to do because he has such a great crowd. What do you say when Seinfeld asks you to join his tour? There's only one possible answer to that question."
I asked if he got any advice along the way.
"Some advice that you get in life can be profound and life-changing and there are tiny bits that are very helpful. I was working with a headliner named John Fox and he said, 'You know how you take sips of water on stage? You might want to do that when the audience is laughing, because the time it takes to wait for the next joke is a glaringly long time.' "
Last year, Regan broke the record for the most consecutive shows by a comedian at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City, and in 2010, he performed five consecutive sold-out shows there, breaking the previous record set by Seinfeld. A great deal of Regan's continued success and popularity stems from that broad material he speaks of. Most of his act is about the mundane, not unlike an episode of "Seinfeld," simply waiting for a table at a restaurant. Subject matter can range from telling a waiter, "You, too," when the waiter says "enjoy your meal" - awkward elevator rides; eating Fig Newtons or his fear of dance floors. Somehow, year after year, Regan finds fresh comic observations from simple day-to-day life without it becoming tired and over told.
* Don't miss Brian Regan in concert at Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Special guest, Kermet Apio of Oahu, will open the show. Theirperformances start at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 in the Castle Theater. Tickets are $45.50 and $55.50 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, you may call 242-7469, visit the box office, or order online at www.mauiarts.org.
ArT=Mixx: RunWAY happens at 7 p.m. Friday in the pavilion at the MACC. An interactive social event that connects artist and audience in a fusion of performing and visual arts, this Runway edition of ArT=Mixx will feature a wearable art fashion show with designers Jenny Jensen, Koa Johnson and Juicy. The evening will pop and sizzle with interactive video displays, photography, music, art-making and more. ArT=Mixx is a 21 and older only event. Admission is free.
By popular demand, actor Vinnie Linares will perform one final encore performance of Aldyth Morris's "Damien" at 3 p.m. Sunday in A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall Campus in Makawao. A $10 donation to the school's performing arts program is suggested. For more details and reservations visit www.seaburyhall.org or call 573-1257.
Enjoy an additional ONO! this month, "Mom's Gift" by Phil Olson, at 6:30 p.m. Monday the Historic Iao Theater. A family gathering forces a dad and his two daughters to reconcile their mom's recent death and recognize all the gifts she left them and others. "Mom's Gift" stars Barbara Sedano, Joel Agnew Angie Thompson, Brett Marynn Wulfson, Vanessa Wolf and Jason Strahn. Admission is free. For more information about upcoming ONO! shows, visit www.mauionstage.com.
Tickets go on sale to the public Monday, June 24 for the epic musical "Les Miserables." This award-winning musical that has thrilled audiences around the world for nearly three decades features a cast of 80 performers and a 25-piece live orchestra.
Produced by Maui Academy of Performing Arts, "Les Miserables" opens on Aug. 16 and runs through Aug. 25. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $15 to $65 (plus applicable facility fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at mauiarts.org. For more information, visit www.mauiacademy.org.
ProArts will hold auditions for its upcoming August production of "The Princess and the Pizza," an original fractured fairy tale with book and lyrics by Richard Vetterli, music and arrangements by Kim Vetterli. Auditions are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Six roles are available for singers and actors ages 18 and older and by appointment only. Actors should bring their current resume and headshot, and prepare a two minute vocal selection, preferably an up-tempo tune from a Broadway show, and sheet music for the accompanist. Readings will be available at audition time. A stipend is paid to all participants. To schedule an appointment, call 463-6550, or for more details, visit proartspacific.com.