We had the opportunity to see Brenner “live” on 2 occasions.
The first time, he was the lead-in act for Donna Summer in Las Vegas. I remember that he came out onstage and immediately made fun of his profile, saying he resembled the emblem on the hood of a Buick. This was probably in the seventies, and his show was very funny and less cerebral than the second time I saw him “live,” which was right here in town at the comedy club on the Davenport side of the river. (The Funny Bone?) I’m unsure of the name of the club now, but I think it was located within the “mall” that never has quite made it—the one that surrounds Bettendorf’s gambling boat.
Brenner brought out a music stand and propped up clippings from local papers and riffed for a good hour or more on ads and stories from our own local papers, poking particular fun at the multitude of ads for cars. He was funny, cerebral, timely and you didn’t get the feeling that he was giving the same show in Davenport that he gave in every other city where he played, which put him in a special class, as, when we saw Steve Martin here in town, his show as the same show he had given as the lead-in for Helen Reddy, back in the day when “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” was big.
Brenner is being mourned by many stand-up comics who have given the man his due as a great influence on the style(s) of such comedians as Richard Lewis (whom he mentored), Jerry Seinfeld and a host of others. It has been said that he was a guest on the “Tonight” show more times than any other guest, but that same claim was made for an equally funny comic, David Steinberg, who has gone on to direct and about whom we recently watched a documentary. Steinberg, too, was a smart, witty guy who changed his act nightly, but he has more-or-less forsaken stand-up to direct such comedy shows as Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
The last few times I saw David Brenner on television were on the late-night comedy show which was a sort of “round table” type show, and he was one of many.
I’m glad I got to see him twice, and it is easy to see what a great influence he was on so many other comics working today.