Brian Regan was ahead of the curve. One year before fellow comedian Louis C.K. made headlines by offering his new standup comedy special as a direct-purchase download on his website, Regan was selling his latest album, “All By Myself,” through BrianRegan.com.
Regan, who will play Thursday at Rose State Performing Arts Theatre, said there are definite advantages to keeping control of his videos and albums. Like Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari and Jim Gaffigan discovered, Regan can maintain total creative control over the project, and the profit margins definitely beat going through a label such as Comedy Central Records or A Special Thing.
“I had done the same with a DVD a few years prior, which is still exclusively on my Web page and is called, ‘I Walked on the Moon,'” Regan said in a recent phone interview. “There's pros and cons to releasing things by yourself as opposed to going with a bigger distributor. One of the pros is you get more of the lion's share of the profits, you know what I mean? You pay for the production and you're pocketing everything after that. The downside is that you're not necessarily opening yourself up to newer fans,” he said. “The only people who are going to buy the things that I produce myself are the people who go to my web page.”
Regan began his standup career in the 1980s, when the avenues for comedy success were still relatively traditional — hit the circuit hard, earn some buzz and, if all went according to plan, a “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” gig. He started in his native Miami, Fla., working as an emcee at the Comic Strip before moving on to the club scene in New York. Regan's debut comedy album, 1997's “Brian Regan Live,” helped secure his reputation for clean observational humor, leading to several appearances on “Late Night with Conan O'Brien” and “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Since breaking through, Regan has worked as both a fully functioning cottage industry and as a contracted recording artist and performer. After appearing on “Comedy Central Presents” in 2000, Regan took the sales and distribution reins on 2004's “I Walked on the Moon,” and has toggled between the independent and corporate worlds ever since, doing two specials for Comedy Central and then releasing “All By Myself” all by himself.
“It's hard to quantify which is better,” Regan said. “So I go back and forth — sometimes I release things myself, and sometimes I want to go through another distributor.”
The experiment in full ownership and distribution seems to work for A-list comics, but the established names still see an upside to working with networks and labels: After selling 220,000 downloads of 2011's “Live at the Beacon Theatre,” Louis C.K. signed an agreement last month to bring his next comedy special back to HBO. Regan said that this modern way of doing things is not a “one-size-fits-all” concept.
“For somebody who's not necessarily at that level, you know, sometimes it's worth the trade off to say, ‘Maybe I should do a special on Comedy Central or something — let Comedy Central make most of the money, but at least I'm opening myself up to a bunch of people who've never seen me before who will now come out and watch my shows and that sort of thing,'” Regan said. “You'll make some money with it, as well, but it's a good thing to have your content out there, so people can happen upon it and go, ‘Hey, this guy's pretty funny.'”
The main goal, Regan said, is to get people to his shows.
“For me, most of earning a living happens when I go on the road anyway, you know what I mean? So I want people to know about my stuff, hear about my stuff and go, ‘I wouldn't mind checking him out when he comes to my town.'”