“And then ... Bill Maher and [Stephen] Colbert and Jon Stewart and Lewis Black came along and all of a sudden every comedian is doing current events and the news,” Brenner says.
As much as he hates to admit it, Brenner — who’s always been reluctant to reveal his age — acknowledges that he’s achieved elder-statesman status in comedy. Wikipedia lists him as 76, and he points out that there aren’t many comedians out there who are still working in their mid-70s. He likes to think he paved the way for many of today’s most successful stand-ups.
Perhaps the key to his survival in the comedy business for 40 years was being part of the Atlantic City casino class of 1978. Brenner was one of the first acts to play Atlantic City’s first casino showroom on the Boardwalk.
Brenner, who’s always looking for jokes, says playing Atlantic City’s first gambling hall was the fountain of youth, because nearly all of the acts that played the first casino, Resorts International, 34 years ago are still around today.
“If you played Resorts in ’78, you’d still be here in 2012. It was in the contract,” Brenner says with a big laugh.
Before turning to comedy, the Philadelphia native was an Emmy-winning television documentary producer for a hometown station that’s now KYW CBS3. Brenner, who once signed a $1 million contract to perform regularly at the former Sands Hotel & Casino here, plays his first Atlantic City gig in five years with a one-night stand Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Atlantic Club. He says he caught a lot of flack for playing Atlantic City’s first casino.
Many entertainers were reluctant to play Atlantic City in the beginning because they didn’t know what to expect or whether Atlantic City would measure up to Las Vegas, the casino city where the acts were all accustomed to playing and being treated in a certain way.
“I got a lot of criticism [from other acts] because I was playing Atlantic City,” he says. “I said to them that you have to understand that ... I spent my whole life [coming to] Atlantic City. [And] the one thing I know about Atlantic City, New York, and Philadelphia is that’s where the gamblers are. It’s that simple. I knew it would be OK.”
Working in television news during the 1960s helped him develop a social conscience, he says, and that continues to influence the comedy he performs today. His material is not only topical but even veers off into the political world.
“Sitting around the table as a kid, we always talked about current events and politics, so it’s part of my DNA,” he says.
Casual conversations with the stars. Watch the Emmy-winning Curtain Call with David Spatz, Saturdays at 6pm on WMGM-TV NBC40.
"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."
A comprehensive listing of entertainment coming to the Atlantic City casinos, Boardwalk Hall and Bader Field.
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,...