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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Paul Reiser on David Brenner

Paul Reiser remembers David Brenner as an inspiration to stand-up comics like him:

I've always felt that in the history of comedy, David Brenner has been a bit under-appreciated. And I think he felt that, too. A mutual acquaintance of ours once passed along to me words of appreciation from David for having mentioned him as a big influence of mine. He shared that for whatever reasons, he rarely got mentioned. Comics most commonly point to George Carlin, or Richard Pryor or Robert Klein -- but David much less so.

I'm not sure why that is. It could be the clothes. Look at any image of David in his prime -- mid to late 70's -- and chances are more than likely your first thought will be, "Man, look at that shirt! That is one crazy-ass collar!"

No question about it -- Brenner took some ballsy fashion chances. And while, yes, those crazy leisure suits and pants with bell-bottoms bigger than my first apartment went out of style, like, three weeks later, I am here to remind you that on the day he walked out on stage in them, he was pretty damn cool.

Or maybe he was under-appreciated exactly because he made it all seem so easy. David Brenner was a naturally funny guy who, in turn, reminded everyone of the Funny Guy In Your Office or your Really Funny Cousin. As is the case with many great artists, David's craft and artistry was not readily visible to the naked eye.

I remember another night at "Catch" when David dropped in to work out some material. As an eager student of comedy, I took the opportunity to sit in the back and watch and learn. I even sat with a pad of paper and pencil and took notes. I wanted to see how the "pros" did it.

He came on stage, launched into some observation, and said, "Now there are two things I really hate." I made a note of the construction. There were two things coming. He went into the first thing, and I got so caught up in the comedy of it, it wasn't till I got home and looked at my notes that I realized, "Hey... there was no second thing! He tricked us!" It wasn't trickery. It was skillful story telling. He got us hooked and then took us wherever the hell he wanted to. (That was also, I am happy to report, the last time I ever tried to take notes in a comedy club.)
Read Reiser's full appreciation of Brenner here.