Comedian Brian Regan, whose latest stand-up special, "On The Rocks," premieres Tuesday on Netflix, said he didn't work for an entire four months when the COVID-19 pandemic forced venues to close their doors in 2020. Photo courtesy of Netflix
Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Brian Regan's On The Rocks was filmed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the comedian said he didn't want the Netflix special to be defined by it.
"I wanted it to be a special that had nothing to do with the pandemic, even though it was shot during that," he told UPI in an interview Monday.
Regan, 52, whose four-decade stand-up career included a 2017 Netflix special, Nunchucks and Flamethrowers, returns to the streaming service Tuesday with On the Rocks, a special filmed in October 2020 at Utah's Tuacahn Center for the Arts outdoor amphitheater.
The special originally had been scheduled for filming in May 2020, but was pushed back to October due to shutdown measures introduced to slow the virus's spread. He said it was only due to the nature of the venue that the filming wasn't postponed a second time.
"I was going to do an outdoor amphitheater even before COVID hit, that was my plan all along, just to do something different," Regan said. "The fact that it was outdoors worked in our favor, because most indoor theaters were closed."
Regan said numerous precautions still were needed for an outside show.
"Everybody backstage was masked up and the whole nine yards, everybody in the audience was wearing masks. There were a lot of protocols in place, but we were able to pull it off," he said.
The special sees Regan mining comedy from subjects such as his recent diagnosis with obsessive-compulsive disorder, awkward conversations at parties and an experience with Reiki massage.
The word "COVID" makes only a single appearance, when Regan jokes: "COVID hit, I went into hibernation and came out a senior citizen."
Regan said the brief mention was designed to get "two things out of the way."
"It got my gray hair out of the way, because my fans had never seen me do anything with gray hair like that, and it also acknowledged that we are in the middle of strange times," he said.
"The planet got sick. So I just wanted to pop that bubble. And then once that was out of the way, then I could just get into the normal kind of comedy I like to do."
Regan said he was able to get back into the swing of comedy with a handful of shows leading up to the taping, and those experiences gave him time to adjust to the differences that came with performing amid a pandemic.
"It was important that they were doing it in a safe way, so I was doing comedy clubs at half-capacity," he said.
"If it were a tiered comedy club, they'd have plexiglass up between the tiers. Tables were far apart from each other; [and] sometimes people would have to be sat with a certain amount of time between the previous group and the later group, so all kinds of protocols were in place."
Regan said measures were adopted to protect the performers, such as backstage social distancing requirements and different microphones for each performer at some venues.
"It was definitely different than a normal show, but the thing that I liked about it is that once you get on stage and hear some laughs, it kind of makes you feel like old times," he said.
"People still like to laugh, so it was nice to be able to perform in as safe of a way as people could come up with"
Regan said those shows came after a four-month period in which he didn't perform.
"I shut the comedy factory down, I knocked the smokestacks over and I didn't do anything," Regan joked. "I just kinda chilled."
He said he admired how some comedians used Zoom and other digital platforms for virtual comedy shows, but he decided the format was not right for him.
"I like to be on stage where I have people near me and I can hear laughs," he said.
Regan said he tried to experiment with one pandemic-friendly format, performing at drive-in movie theaters, but he ultimately decided that wasn't working for him.
"It was so spread out, so surreal, and the sound of the laughs is so small compared to what you're used to. I was like, 'OK, I think I'm going to pass on this.'
"I believe in experimenting, trying new things, but for me it's going too far if you don't have people with you that you can hear laughing," he said.
Back on the road
The comedian is preparing to hit the road again for a string of tour dates scheduled to begin in Providence, R.I., on March 26. He said he expects that plenty of safety precautions still will be in place.
"They'll probably be socially distanced, that's my guess. Any theater I've done so far, they've done it that way. The special itself wasn't socially distanced, because that area of the country was incredibly low in terms of COVID, and everyone had masks ... but most of the places I play are socially distanced."
Outside of his comedy specials, Regan's recent appearances on the small screen include the four-episode stand-up/sketch comedy hybrid show Standup and Away! on Netflix and a role on Peter Farrelly's comedy series Loudermilk.
Regan said he would like to continue with both projects, but as of now, "nothing definite" exists.
"If I could do a little bit more acting, and do some more sketches and continue to do the comedy, that would be great," he said.
Brian Regan: On The Rocks is streaming now on Netflix.