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By Dianne R. Davis
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Photo credit: Dianne or Burt Davis

We mourn the loss of “observational comedian” David Brenner. Below is an edited version of an interview we did with him in 2007, when he lived in Las Vegas with his, then fiance, Tai Babilonia.
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An interview with David Brenner 
“Observational Comic” Talks About His Life, His Career, and Parenthood

David Brenner is funny and original, and every show is different from the last. This award winning comedian -- who reached eligibility for social security a few years back-- currently makes his home in Las Vegas with his fiancé Tai Babilonia.

Brenner has had a distinguished career doing what comes naturally to him. He believes comedic ability is genetic and runs in his family. His dad spent some time as a vaudeville performer and had a contract to do movies with the Three Stooges. 

Personal Philosophy
Brenner is a man who tries to live his personal philosophy. His mother called him, “a citizen of the universe.” Early on, Brenner embraced his mother’s philosophy that anything that separates human beings isn’t good, including state lines and country borders, and it has permeated his attitude toward life. 

Class Clown/ Class President
Brenner’s ability to make others laugh helped him avoid fights in the schools and the tough streets of South and West Philadelphia where he grew up as a late-in-life child. But the award-winning comedian didn’t set out to enter the profession. His ambition was simply to earn enough to get his family out of his rough environment. He can boast the distinction of being both class clown and class president through the majority of his school years.

A distinguished record as a Mass Communications major at Temple University led to positions as writer/producer/director of 115 documentary films for both Westinghouse Broadcasting and Metromedia Broadcasting. His work earned him many industry awards and citations including the coveted Emmy.
A Try at Comedy
Disenchantment with his impact on those around him led him to try stand-up comedy. An appearance on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson launched his career into the big time and was the first of a record 158 appearances on that show. Here are Brenner’s thoughts on a variety of subjects as well as his surprising answers to some questions.

Dianne Davis: How has comedy changed and is it for the better or worse?
David Brenner: For the worse. Number one, the public has lowered the bar. There are cerebral comedians, those of us who think. We have smaller and smaller audiences. It’s attrition. There is great freedom of speech. But then, the pendulum swings too far. It’s okay to use four letter words if the bit is funny. Richard Pryor was funny. He could do an act in a nightclub filled with four letter words and everyone would scream or laugh. The next day he could do it on Ed Sullivan and clean it up and it was still funny. EDianneie Murphy and Chris Rock are funny. 

Profanity is a crutch that some use if they have nothing funny to say. Young people want the truth. They don’t expect when you get shot there is no blood. Worse than that is how politically correct and censored we are. Everyone is so uptight.

Dianne: Are any subjects off limits to you?
David: I find it difficult to make fun of anything that can’t be controlled. If someone weights too much, you can control that. But there are sacred cows. Children who are handicapped are off limits. You gotta draw lines.
Dianne: Do you have Pet Peeves?
David: Pet peeves? My latest is no one says thank you anymore. Open a door for a woman, She doesn’t say thank you. No one does. We have lost that social grace. Also, the: corruption of the American system and dream.

Dianne: Who are the most important people in your life?

David: My parents 

Dianne: Who do you admire most?
David: My family.

Dianne: Have you found balance in your life?

David: I think I have always tiptoed on the edge of the leaf. I like the risks and the adventure. I have never been the kind who wants the security. It’s inside of you.

Dianne: What is the most important thing you’ve taught or will teach your sons?
David: Tolerance

Dianne: How would you like to be remembered?
David: As someone who never put anyone down because of religion, color or belief.

Dianne: Is there one thing about yourself would you like to change?
David: I’d like to be healthy and 21 again.

Dianne: Who are your heros?
David: My brother and my father 
Dianne: If you could be invisible for a day, where would you go?
David: Where all the beautiful women are.

Dianne: Would you get married again?
David: Yes, it’s a possibility. I have no real arguments with 90% of women I’ve know.

Dianne: What do you consider your greatest achievements?
David: Fighting for custody of my sons to give them what is in their best interest. 
Dianne: Pop corn, peanuts, or pistachios?
David: Pop corn if I’m watching a movie. Peanuts if I’m flying. It’s too much work to eat pistachios

Beef, chicken, or fish? Fish
Favorites:
Foods: Philly cream cheese, Vanilla and Chocolate ice cream.
Movies: Raging Bull and Good Fellas.
Color: Red 
Place: New York City
Expression: Why not.
Dianne: Can you give us a few words that sum up your philosophy?
David: From the Old Testament. Do to others as you would want them to do to you. It’s the Golden Rule. I spent years doing documentaries and thought the world was looking for answers and I would find them. Take the Ten Commandments. We have the answers. Man doesn’t want answers. Therefore, he violates all the teachings. 

Dianne: What is your definition of success?
David: Doing what you love to do in a place you don’t want to leave.
Unfortunately, David had to leave. Rest in Peace David Brenner  February 4, 1936 – March 15, 2014

 

 

 

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