Quick Wit

The Avi Resort & Casino has brought back what proved to be a popular way to spend Friday evenings last year. A comedy series called the “1st Friday Comedy Show” has returned with new lineups each month. The lineup for the Friday, Feb. 1, show includes three comedians — the host Jaye Devon, the feature Steven Briggs and headliner Ed Regine. Tickets start at $20.
Every comedian has his or her own spin on life and their circumstances and the ability to work clean, meaning monologues might be adult-oriented, but never nasty. These performers have respect for their audiences and know how to work a crowd. Comedy is a lot like food — if it’s good, people will come back, if the food is lousy, adios, baby.
As a rule, there are no “F” bombs and nothing offensive or hurtful. Comics know there is a lot more in the world to talk about and still be funny — with their unique artistic form in tact.
This month’s headliner, Ed Regine made his first-ever open mic appearance in a little comedy club in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1985, and it wasn’t long until he was headlining major comedy clubs all across America.
Regine also appeared on most of the popular comedy shows on networks in the ’90s including MTV, Comedy Central, Showtime and HBO as well as a Live Pay-Per-View from Sony Studios in New York City just to name a few. Around the same time, he began performing on luxury cruise liners as well as major corporate events.
In 2000, Regine moved to Hollywood to pursue his acting career and landed more than 17 roles in many feature films working with such actors as Tom Hanks, Al Pacino, Barbara Hershey, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rip Torn, Linda Blair and many more.
As a standup comedian, he has shared the stage with comics including Billy Crystal, Rodney Dangerfield, Jamie Foxx, Andrew “Dice” Clay and many others. Regine has opened for dozens of musical acts including Michael McDonald, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Ritchie, N’Sync, Natalie Cole and BJ Thomas, as well as appearing in the “Loyalty” music video with Kendrick Lamar which has amassed at last count over 170 million views.
The Laughlin entertainer talked with Ed Regine about his comedy and the show he brings to the Avi. Here’s his take…

Talk about your background.
It starts with me always wanting to be a comedian ever since I was a small child. I remember watching some of the variety shows on TV and they had comedians on, and I would look at it and go, “Boy, I’d love to do that, to make people laugh, that looks like so much fun!” Then I was raised in Providence, Rhode Island, which was a very small city at the time. There was really no venue for comedy and I didn’t know where to go — New York or L.A. — and that seemed so far away, and so improbable. Plus, I was young and my parents certainly didn’t want me to do something like that, being from a large Italian family with Italian parents, “You’re not going to go to New York, you’re 16 or 17 years old, what are you going to do, be a comedian?” That dashed my dreams and they laid dormant for a long time. I ended up getting into the automobile business, and I did that for a few years.

How did you get into comedy?
My boss at the time — his brother was getting married so he said, “I’m having a bachelor party, we’d love you to come because you’re funny and you make people laugh,” because I would always do silly stuff. At first I said no, because I’m not really into girls popping out of cakes, but he said this is different, that the party was at a comedy club that opened up in Providence. He said, “They have comedians, and I hired two to come and entertain at the party.” So I decided to go.
The second guy came up and he was sort of a poor man’s Don Rickles, as it were, picking on the audience, and he landed on me with a couple of questions and I was firing back at him. We’re going back and fourth and my friends in the business are laughing cause it was a room full of car dealers so they’re all having a good time. I saw the second guy who stuck around for a soft drink and he was at the bar, and I said, “That was really great,” and the next thing I said changed my life. I said, “I always wanted to be a comedian.”
I’m thinking, he’s going to say, “Aw, that’s nice.” But he said, “Hey, if you really want to try it, I host the club in Providence, I’m one of the co-bookers there. If you want to come on and do an open mic night, on Thursday, I’ll put you on, just get five minutes of material ready.”
So I had like 10 days or so to prep for it, and I went on and thought, “This is unbelievable, but it seems to be a lot harder than what I thought it was going to be.” I ended up doing three minutes, I never made it to five minutes. I’m like, I’m outta here. It was emotional. I got off the stage and the guy who booked me was at the back of the room, he asked me, “What did you think?” “I think it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” I said. “Would you like to come back again next week?” “Absolutely,” I said.
That was the start of it — that was January 1985. Four months later I got my first paid gig at that club hosting four shows on the weekend. I was thinking, “Wow, I made it.” About four months later, the guy who got me started set up a showcase for me in Boston. By the end of the year I was actually headlining some rooms. The following year I left the car business and I became a full-time headliner.

Describe your comedy for people who may not be aware.
I have plenty of ammunition for whatever the occasion. With my comedy, I have a running theme — we’re all idiots, but that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. It’s a compliment, it’s not a put down. If everyone was perfect and no one ever messed up, life would be pretty boring, if you think about it. It’s the funny, silly things we do and the mistakes that we make. I’m talking about harmless stuff — where are my glasses, they’re on top of my head; where’s my phone; directions to labels that make no sense — that kind of stuff. That’s the body of show, just pointing out the stupid stuff we all do. We should all laugh more and enjoy life more — it’s kind of a message, but to me it’s very funny and very entertaining, I believe.

Where’s the strangest place you never thought you’d perform?
I’ve done billiards rooms, I’ve done luncheons at college where everybody’s trying to study and I’m trying to do comedy, I’ve done tiny bars, I’ve done private parties in homes, and bachelor parties with drunken people all over the place. You name it, I’ve probably done it — bowling alleys, yes I did that. I did a tour bus once and I did a dinner train. Some of them are really tough gigs.

What’s your favorite thing about being a comedian?
I think it’s bringing laughter and joy to people, to make them laugh and have a little respite from everyday turmoil where they can come and they can laugh as a unit, as a group. You know today and how divided things can be, but when you get all these people in a room, we’re no longer divided, politics don’t matter, none of that matters. They’re all there to have a good time and to laugh and to get them all together as one, I think is pretty awesome. I’ve had people come to me so many times after a show and say, “We didn’t want to come out tonight, but you made our night,” or “We don’t like comedians, but our friends said we had to come out.” To reach people and touch people that way I think is a pleasure I get out of it.

What’s your least favorite thing about being a comedian?
For me, I would say the travel. I travel a lot. I do cruise ships, luxury cruise liners — these are billion dollar cruise ships I’m working on with state of the art equipment, thousand-seat showroom, that’s all wonderful with state-of-the-art equipment, sound system, lighting, everything is at my disposal and that’s great. But getting there, leaving home, getting on a plane, traveling from Los Angeles where I live, to Miami, then down to Jamaica; or Miami down to Barbados, then overnight there, then get on the ship, go through customs/immigration — it’s a constant thing I’m doing. I enjoy doing it, but I’m away from my family and I love my family, my wife, my kids, my grandkids. You miss all of that. Sometimes I miss birthday parties, a dance recital, or our wedding anniversary might be a couple days late…that gets hard.

What’s the biggest laugh you ever received?
I was doing a six-star resort in New Hampshire at a place called Dixville Notch, where the first presidential vote is cast. It was in the Edelweiss Room, packed with 500 or 600 people, standing room only. And for some ungodly reason, there was a table for four in the front to the right of the stage that was empty. Maybe these people had reservations or something. But they come traipsing in about 15 minutes into my act and they walk all the way from the back of the room…”excuse me, pardon me, excuse me”…and they disrupted the entire show. So they sat down and I’m thinking, “OK, everybody in the room has just seen this, I have to do something.” I said, “Hello, guys, welcome to the show, you’re a little bit late. What happened?” One guy, who thought he was going to outsmart the comedian, said, “Well, we were out moose hunting.” So my brain immediately kicked into to comedic mode and I said, “Oh, really? It looks like you bagged a couple.” It was like five minutes before we could restore order to the room. It was absolutely pandemonium. If something like that happens, you have to think fast on your feet and handle it.


FIRST FRIDAY COMEDY

Avi Grand Ballroom

Friday, Feb. 1 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info