Comic Legend David Brenner Comes to Paper Mill Playhouse
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 • 4:36pm
MILLBURN, NJ - Over 40 years since first appearing on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” David Brenner is still making people laugh.
Brenner will be bringing his comedic talents to the Paper Mill Playhouse on Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m. with special guests, Tommy Mara and The Crests (“Sixteen Candles,” “Step by Step,” “Cara Mia.”)
Discovering he was funny when he was a little boy growing up in Philadelphia, Brenner describes his story as “atypical.”
He said, “Most comedians were the kids everyone ignored. They weren’t popular. It wasn’t that way at all.” In fact, it was his sense of humor that led to his popularity and helped him win the title of “Class President” every year.
“I made grown-ups laugh,” he said. “But I had no desire to be a comedian. I never thought of doing it.” Prior to being a professional comic, Brenner had a lucrative career as a writer/producer/director making documentaries. After making 115 films, he wanted to go on just one television show as a comedian to “prove I did it.” He paused and added, “It was ‘The Tonight Show.’” The next day, Brenner had $10,000 worth of job offers.
After that national television debut Brenner became the most frequent guest with 158 appearances on “The Tonight Show.” Brenner was ranked #53 on “Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.” He also wrote five books.
In 1984 The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia named Brenner their Person of the Year; and in 2003 inducted him into their Hall of Fame.
But Brenner doesn’t take his fame too seriously, as he considers his best talent to be simply living life. “I was in the army. I was in thirteen European countries,” he said. “I went to Paris poor. I went to Paris rich. I pursue an interesting life. That’s the great part of life, it’s an extreme edge.”
And while Brenner leads a life in the spotlight with friends in comedy, such as Richard Lewis and Jimmy Walker, his best friends are the same regular guys he hung out with growing up in the streets of Philadelphia. He referred to his friends as “a maintenance man, a cop, a bicycle shop owner,” but also noted that Bill Cosby was also a friend he grew up with in Philadelphia.
When asked who his favorite comedians are Brenner said, “I go back to some of the greats. Richard Pryor. George Carlin. Bill Cosby. Shecky Green. He was the best night club comedian. Jack Benny. George Burns. Red Skeleton. That’s who I enjoyed.”
Of the newer comedians, Brenner favors the late Mitch Hedberg who he considered “the best young comedian.”
While Brenner thinks some of the newer comedians are good, he also feels comedy is taking a turn for the worse. “It’s going downhill,” he said. “The public lowered the bar. They’re laughing at things now that you wouldn’t get an audience to laugh at. The cerebral mind is drying up in America.”
And he’s quick to add that his attitude isn’t sour grapes either. “I still make the money,” he said. “I know I can get up on stage and hit the ball as far as any today.”
Brenner refers to his humor as “observational comedy.” He said, “It’s just making observations about simple things. I did that when I was four-years-old.”
The one thing that has changed Brenner’s act over the years he’s been in show business is that computers and iPads have joined America together so he doesn’t have to explain a joke when he’s in another part of the country.
When asked what his next plans are Brenner said, “I’m just glad to still be here. I’ve done it all.”
Brenner’s special guests at the Paper Mill Playhouse performance will be Tommy Mara and The Crests. Mara, who grew up in Brooklyn, is known as “the Pavarotti of Doo Wop” because of his powerful vocal range. While Mara has made his mark in the oldies circuit, he loves the challenge of singing any type of music and has even been featured on two platinum rap albums for Lil Wayne.
“Country, soul, I love all music,” Mara said, “Not to brag, but I can do it all.”
Future plans for Tommy Mara include releasing some of the music he recorded with his late friend Johnny Maestro who originally sang with The Crests, prior to singing with The Brooklyn Bridge. Releasing this music wasn’t part of Mara’s game plan, but so many people have been asking him for CDs that featured his performances with Maestro.
“As a friend, I didn’t want to reap off his passing,” Mara said. “I don’t do it for the money. I do it for the love. To make people feel like they’re twenty-one again. To watch their faces brings joy to me. It’s beautiful.”
David Brenner, with special guest Tommy Mara and The Crests will appear at Paper Mill Playhouse, Saturday, March 16, 8 p.m. To purchase tickets visit Paper Mill Playhouse at: http://www.papermill.org