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Brian Regan keeps his material new and funny

Comedian Brian Regan made stand-up history in late 2015 when he performed the first Comedy Central live broadcast special at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"That stage is huge," he says. "I had a circus waiting backstage just in case the show didn't go well. I was going to blow a whistle and the circus was going to come out," he jokes.

"It was an intense experience because it is being taped and broadcast live," he says. "If something happens, you can't go back and edit it. That word, 'live,' is a strong one, but I liked the challenge of it."

Regan will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 7, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 S. First St., Jacksonville. Fellow funny guy Dan Cummins will open the show. Tickets are $52 for reserved seating, $39 for lawn seating, $224 for premium blanket seating for four, and $112 for premium blanket seating for two. Tickets can be purchased online at brittfest.org, at the box office at 216 W. Main St., Medford, or by calling 541-773-6077.

Regan grew up in south Florida and started performing at a comedy club in Fort Lauderdale, then went out on the road for several years.

"I had to decide what to do," he says. "It's not like a movie producer is going to come up to you after you've just performed a show in Greenville, S.C. So I moved to New York City in 1986. I was there for eight years and made great headway, got my foot in the door and made TV appearances. It was definitely a good move for me."

Regan met comedian and actor Chris Rock all those years ago in New York City while each struggled to get time spots in comedy clubs.

"I happened to be at the Comedy Club in New York City when Rock met Eddie Murphy. Murphy asked the club if they could put Rock on so that he could watch him. Rock killed, and Murphy put him in his next movie," he says. "Rock went from not being able to get on stage to a movie star. I should've talked to Murphy that night. But once Rock was plucked from the comedy circuit, there was a spot open for me," he laughs.

In 2014, Regan made a scene-stealing cameo in Rock's film "Top Five," about a comedian who tries to make it as a serious actor.

"I've been in a few documentaries about comedy, but Rock's movie is the only one where I play a character. The fact that they included me in the trailer was quite an honor, and quite a shock. I didn't even know I was in the movie. When I heard "Top Five" was coming out, I checked the cast list on IMDb and my name wasn't there. It was a small role, and I thought maybe they'd cut me out. The next thing I know, I'm in the movie and in the trailer."

Regan made his first appearance on NBC's "Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson in 1991, while still living in New York.

"It was a watershed moment, but at the same time Arsenio Hall's show and others were emerging on the late-night TV scene," he says. "So it was beginning to be more of a muddied up late-night atmosphere. It was still great for me."

Regan made his 28th and final stand-up appearance on CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" in May of last year — the most any comic has made on the show since 1993.

"My last two late-night appearances have been with Jimmy Fallon on 'The Tonight Show.' He's very cool," Regan says.

Regan was one of the first comedians to appear with Jerry Seinfeld on his internet series "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee."

“He is one of my favorite, favorite stand-up comedians,” Seinfeld says about Regan. "He's a straight-up goof-ball, and that's the kind of guy I like to hang out with."

When Regan "went for coffee" with Seinfeld, none of the internet episodes were online yet, so the concept was unfamiliar to him.

"All I knew was I was getting into a car and we were going to drive around for a few hours and go get coffee," Regan says. "The title is the premise, but other than that I didn't know how it would play out.

"I think Seinfeld's concept is great. He told me everything he had done prior to 'Comedians in Cars' had scripted elements involved. He wanted to do something unscripted, and he felt it was fun hanging out with comedians. He had a 'eureka moment' where maybe just hanging out and talking with comedians could be a show. I like Seinfeld's comedy, and I'm honored he likes mine."

Regan's "Live From Radio City Music Hall" is available as a CD, DVD or digital download. "All By Myself" (2010) is available on CD; his hour-long Comedy Central specials, "The Epitome of Hyperbole" (2008) and "Brian Regan Standing Up" (2007), are available on DVD; "I Walked on the Moon (2004) is available on DVD or digital download; and "Brian Regan Live" (1997) is available on CD.

Regan's biggest focus remains on his live stand-up shows.

"That's where most of my followers come from," he says. "So that's what I focus on."

His path has taken him to two sold-out shows at the 8,600-seat Red Rocks Amphitheater, one in 2013 and 2015, and two sold-out shows in 2014 at the 12,500 seat Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City.

"As much fun as those venues are, I like to keep them special," Regan says. "My favorite places to perform are historical theaters such as the Ryman in Nashville. It's definitely one of my favorites. The Chicago Theatre is a great experience, and the Fox Theatre in Detroit is cool. Playing historic venues around the country is a great feeling, and the audiences are great. It's cool to stand on a stage where Frank Sinatra once performed."

Regan likes to keep his material fresh and switched up.

"As much as I like the compliment, 'wow, you were funny,' I also like the compliment, 'a lot of that stuff was new.' 'New,' to me, is a compliment. I hope audiences think my material is new and funny."

Brian Regan performing live at Radio City Music Hall in 2015. Photo by Brian Friedman