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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014

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Brian Regan delivers a night of laughs at The Pabst

Brian Regan might not be a household name, but he is one of the finest touring comedians working today. At The Pabst Theater on Saturday night, Regan showcased a mixture of new material combined with jokes from his most recent release, "All By Myself."

Briefly touching on politics to kick off the show, Regan expressed confusion over what exactly a "presidential exploratory committee" is. His interpretation was a group of henchmen that are sent out and then return to the candidate with basic facts such as the term being four years long. Regan then revealed his idea to make the country run smoother. This plan involved everyone getting one free kill. Regan then clarified that he didn't actually want to have people murder one another, but that the lingering threat would put everyone on their best behavior at all times.

Reflecting on how his mind is playing tricks as he gets older, Regan talked about a universal feeling everyone has had when they see a familiar face but cannot remember the person's name. As summed up by Regan, it is as if your brain is playing a game of Wheel of Fortune with you, remembering some information about the person's name but not all. "There's a j and a c ... good luck." Regan then pretended to say hello to this person by just pronouncing a muffled slur of the two letters, with the punchline being that the mystery man had the name CJ.

There were a couple of moments in Regan's show when it was clear that his new material has not been completely refined. After the end of a joke about a flying chest bump attempt elicited no response from the audience, Regan acknowledged how it had fallen flat. "That's a new joke and I appreciate your feedback." Later, he became tongue-tied and accidentally said the word "place" instead of "gate" in a joke about St. Louis. After briefly pausing, Regan then gave the crowd an insight to his mind and how it felt to have his mouth go rogue on him. While less experienced comedians might have been rattled by this mistake, Regan turned it into a moment to relate with the audience and point out his imperfection.

This sequence tied in to one of the most appealing aspects to Regan's comedy in that he often portrays himself as the fool. This makes him more endearing because he's willing to admit the times when he is not knowledgeable or has acted unwisely. Often times he is able to enhance this appeal through his physicality. Regan can twist his face and move his body in a way that is never distracting but always appropriate to the story he's telling.

Another element that makes Brian Regan special is that his show was completely clean. There wasn't a single moment where he even came close to saying something that could be considered a swear word. In the current comedy landscape, accomplishing such a feat is pretty impressive. He might not be advertised as an all-ages comedian, but his material really would be appropriate for the whole family beginning with about ages 9 and up.

After concluding his set, Regan returned for a brief encore in which he took requests to perform previously recorded and better-known material. Immediately there was an overwhelming response, with audience members desperate to hear a favorite gem from one of his specials such as "Standing Up" and "The Epitome of Hyperbole."  Disappointingly, a fraction of the Pabst audience continued to shout out suggestions well after Regan had made his selection and had already started his bit about Pop Tarts.

Opener Tom Ryan was a good pairing with Regan, as he also didn't go blue during his brief set. He started out strong in explaining how he is such a nice guy that he even takes the time to write replies to every piece of spam he receives. Rattling off the types of emails everyone has been sent such as foreign princes in need of your bank account information and webcam girls inviting you to see their show clearly connected with the Pabst crowd.

Ryan also scored points with the audience when he discussed how the oil can symbol on his car's dashboard looks like something else. "Apparently my car's low on gravy or I've got three wishes coming my way." Instead of exiting on his biggest laugh of the night regarding Arm and Hammer soda, Ryan continued with weaker jokes about the baking soda before concluding his appearance by introducing Regan.

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