Friday, February 06, 2009

The Feast of Saint David

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This week we celebrated the feast day of Saint David. David Brenner is 73 years old. The son of a vaudeville performer, growing up in the tough parts of Philly, he became a pivotal figure in stand-up. Originally, a documentary film-maker, he tried comedy and caught the bug. His early work in the 60s was geared to the young in-crowd, but he took off by placing his jokes in the heart of the mainstream.

He tells the story two different ways. One version has Brenner talking to Dangerfield.

"He came up to me one night and said, 'You know, your stuff is very hip.' And by the way, he was one of the hippest. He asked, 'What percentage of Americans do you think are hip?' I said, 'I don't know, maybe 10 percent.' He said, "I'll tell you what. You take the 10 percent and I'll take the 90.' And I went home and de-hipped my act."
The other lays it at the feet of Carson's booking agent who told him his stuff was too hip and he changed in order to get on The Tonight Show, which he did more than any other performer, 158 times.

The man was one of my comic heroes growing up. In the 70s, he was clean and clever, always topical. He all but created the brand of observational humor that Shandling and Seinfeld would ride to stardom a decade and a half later. To this day, he remains one of the most prolific joke writers out there. He said he stopped worrying about people ripping off his work when he realized he could write jokes faster than they could steal them.

To celebrate his 40th year in comedy, the man is planning a tour. If you get a chance, go see a master.

Happy birthday, David Brenner.

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve