With comic Brian Regan, the laughs are effortless

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At the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Saturday, March 17

Comedy is a funny game. The easier it looks, the harder it is to pull off. Great joke-writing can fall flat if the timing is off. A performer can coast on a name or larger-than-life delivery alone for about 10 minutes before the crowd grows weary and wants to hear solid jokes. But when it all comes together in a perfect storm of hilarity, it’s a joy to behold.

That’s Brian Regan’s act. He makes it look so effortless, but we know it can’t be or we’d see his wall-to-wall brand of funny more often. His opener on Saturday at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, Gary Brightwell, helps illustrate Regan’s genius. Brightwell is a veteran comic with good jokes and knows how to tell them, even if he occasionally slips into Reganese. You think you’re having a good time—and you are—but when the real Regan hits the stage, you’re taken to a new level. His amp goes up to 11. The energy immediately lifts, and not just because of the thousands of Reganites in attendance. He’s a dynamo, and his distinct cadence, confidence, and physicality doesn’t let up in his hour-plus performance.

Regan, who’s been plying his trade since the 1980s, has hours of material to choose from and could make a great living travelling around doing his greatest hits, but he’s constantly writing new bits. And what’s amazing is they’re just as funny as any of his classics, so the audience has no chance to get restless. He took us through a dizzying array of topics, all seamlessly woven together. He’s not a setup–punch line comic; rather, it’s his commitment to character, brilliant concepts, and carefully crafted words, all punctuated with goofball expressions and exaggerated movements, that slays.

The bulk of his premises are fresh and unexpected. His genius is in taking everyday, accepted topics and turning them on their ear. But he even brings huge laughs to otherwise uninspired premises. We’ve all heard jokes about airport security and their no-nonsense, no-jokes policy. But Regan took it to new heights by carefully considering all the angles, not just the first, more obvious take on the craziness of the rule. He eventually got around to seeing why it’s a law in the first place, and ended with a hysterically silly alternative to the outlawed jokes at the terminal: maniacal laughing.

Two of my favourite chunks included comparing the rules of chess to football and his take on dancing. Why is the warlike board game so passive at its conclusion, compared with the warlike sport? He comes at it from a childlike angle of inquiry but fills in the blanks like a comedic prodigy, with a quarterback announcing “Touchdown” before a score and walking off the field. And parsing the moment when one goes from not dancing to dancing on the walk to the dance floor is just as inspired (“I’m starting to wiggle!”).

After an hour of such unique observations, Regan gave the fans the rock-star treatment by taking requests for his encore. Half the fun in him playing the hits (on stupid husbands, Pop-Tarts, and walkie-talkies) was watching him self-consciously segue into the bits. But if we’ve established anything, it’s that he’s a pro’s pro and nothing can quell the fun.

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