Ever since the first caveman comedian told the first joke, stand-up comics have accused one another of stealing material and committing grand theft comedy.
Not David Brenner. Fellow comedians never actually pilfered his jokes. They went one better.
They stole his whole damned format. And not just once, but twice.
The first time was back in the 1980s, when Brenner was on his way to setting a record for the most appearances with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show — 158 by actual count. And that doesn’t include the hundreds of times he guest-hosted the show in Carson’s absence.
Whenever Brenner would be booked into the Catch A Rising Star comedy club in New York or Los Angeles, up-and-coming comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser and Garry Shandling would come to study the way Brenner worked.
Seinfeld went on to create and star in the most popular sitcom in television history. That didn’t bother Brenner too much, nor did the fact that Seinfeld began getting the credit for originating observational comedy.
“But then one day I was reading a magazine story about [Seinfeld] and it credited him with developing the [set-up] line, ‘Did you ever notice ...?’” Brenner recalls during a recent chat from his home in New York City. “And that’s where I said, ‘Whoa, hold on, wait a minute.’”
Brenner logged on to YouTube and searched for his first Tonight Show appearance. And there, in a study of black-and-white video recorded on Jan. 8, 1971, was a very young Brenner, asking Carson, his studio audience and millions of viewers, “Did you ever notice ...?”
“Three times! I said it three times [during the segment]. I think [Seinfeld] was still in the sixth grade!” Brenner fumes. “I don’t mind not getting credit for something. But I do mind it when I’m discredited.”
The second time Brenner says he had an entire format stolen was about a dozen years ago, right after he performed a cable TV special that was based entirely on topical events and the news. Brenner had planned to corner the market on this genre of humor.
More than 30 years ago, when I was just getting my feet wet as a television host, David Brenner — the Philly born-and-bred comedian who died of cancer last week at age 78 — sued me.
Fortunately for his family and friends, Ralphie May has finally cleaned up his life. Equally as fortunate for fans of the obese and medically compromised comedian, he hasn’t cleaned up his act.
“I don’t want to be too critical of what other people do, but when people go back to do the same thing that they did, I’m completely confused. I’m like, ‘Didn’t you make that movie already?’ I’ve been very fortunate, and I’m well taken care of, so the least I can do is try to go forward.”
"The world has changed, but the art of stand-up is exactly the same. It’s so low tech. There’s nothing you can do that’s technological. You can’t speed it up, you can’t accelerate the process."
The summer's nearly gone, but the memories live on. Not only for the Shoobies and Shore dwellers, but also for many of the casino acts who have passed through Atlantic City this year. With such a rich and colorful history, Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore have not only provided perfect Boardwalk nights for decades of vacationers, but they've also given some of the country's biggest entertainment stars something to remember -- whether they were performing on stage or here as a child. The following excerpts are from interviews conducted by AC Weekly in recent years. Visit the Archives and Audio sections to reminisce some more. Don Rickles (8/9/07 issue): "So what's new in Atlantic City? Like I don't know ... If I work one more hotel in Atlantic City, I'm going to work the airport." Justin Hayward, Moody Blues (6/17/04): "That Boardwalk, that's a magical thing." Adam Durtiz, Counting Crows (9/6/07): "It is a popular perception that I'm wasted on stage. It's mostly not the case. And for this past tour, it was never the case ...I'm not promising anything for Atlantic City [though] ... that's a fun town." David Hinds, Steel Pulse (3/8/07): "My mother and father lived in Atlantic City for...
By Lori Hoffman and Jeff Schwachter PHILLY FAVORITES DAVID Brenner and Dom Irrera will tie their fans in knots with laughter when they team up at Tropicana July 16 and 17. Although neither has lived in the city for a while, their comedy is an extension of their Philly roots. The two stand-up giants checked in from the road. AC Weekly: You are now a true legend of comedy. Other comics put on their credits that they've appeared with you. Dom Irrera: That I'm somebody's credit, that's nice. I don't know when it happened; first I was a young comedian, now I'm a legend. I think Rodney Dangerfield's a legend (Dangerfield gave Irrera his first big break on his HBO comedy specials). I'm a good comic ... make that a very good comic. ACW: Did you know David Brenner back in the Philly years? DI: Not really. I've worked with him before, yes. We worked together in Florida a couple years ago and had a lot of fun. I just think it's a good idea to have a Philly show. David and I are two of the only comedians out there that are in that [Philly] circle. It's neat because we have similar...
THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT Norah Jones would be coming to Boardwalk Hall, that Kid Rock was bringing his cocky self to the Taj, that 311 and The Roots would bring their rock 'n' rap to the Taj, and that the Borgata was hosting Maxim's Fantasy Island music festival, broke up an otherwise old school summer entertainment lineup. Back in 1980, sociologists predicted that the post-war baby boom generation, born between 1946-1964, was so large it would dominate American culture in successive decades. From the looks of the music and comedy scheduled this summer along casino row and the marina properties, I'd say that trend is right on and outta-sight. Old School Casino You can't get more old school than Wayne Newton, July 23-24, and Liza Minnelli, July 2-3, at Harrah's. Resorts has Tom Jones June 24-27, and smooth Smokey Robinson July 24-25. Paul Anka continues his exclusive contract at Borgata Aug. 13-15. Also scheduled to perform this summer are Lou Rawls at Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall July 26, presented by Trump Plaza; Patti Labelle, July 17 at Borgata; The Temptations, June 25-27 at the Trop; Bobby Vinton, Aug. 6-8, at Resorts, and Dick Fox's Golden Boys with Frankie Avalon,...