Thursday night David Brenner took the stage at the Metropolitan Room, once again entertaining in a space where a lot of his earlier material had been worked out in the beginning of his career. Some may remember it as The Gotham Comedy club – and it’s where Brenner developed what was later christened “observational comedy” – a staple of comedians now but completely unique when Brenner first took to the stage in the 70s.
It’s enjoyable to be in this intimate setting with this seasoned performer. His comedy is comfortable, identifiable with nary a foul word – the bluest of his bits perhaps running to a shade of Tiffany Blue. Sitting in his audience is like being in the presence of your favorite friend who keeps you continually in stitches – not because he’s trying to, but simply because that’s the way he thinks, and the way he thinks is hilarious.
Brenner – who casually takes the stage and gets into his patter with a little back-story, a little joking, and a little gesturing that sells the joke – frames this time back in New York City as “trying out some new stuff” as he did back in the day. He shares that he views this as a chance to take the stage and work that muscle again. But when you’re as talented and seasoned as Brenner there’s very little that needs to be tried out, and, as a result, as Brenner picks through his notes for an “oh, maybe you’ll like this one” bit, very little falls flat. Quite simply, the entire act was laugh-out-loud funny. Not just smile-broadly funny … not politely-chuckle-funny. Not nod-in-recognition-funny or look-at-the-person-you’re-with-and-exchange-”that-look”-of-appreciation-funny. No, Brenner was Laugh Out Loud funny.
His material began with finding himself at odds not with anyone in general, but with aging. And while he casually tossed off “I’ve always looked younger than I am” this is no idle bragging, aside from the whiter hair there’s nothing to distinguish this Brenner from the one who graced the Carson stage more than any other guest in Tonight Show history.
A joke that starts out quaint but affable (I spent 45 minutes looking for my reading glasses. They were on the top of my head … ) moves solidly forward and delivers. (The next day when I couldn’t find the bread to make toast I didn’t waste 45 minutes. I went straight to my assistant and said “Do I have a loaf of bread on top of my head?“) Things like this, imparted in his disarming style, kept the crowd laughing for well over an hour. Try as he might to insist that he was “trying out new material” – when a comic has been as comfortable on stage as Brenner, with a career as successful as his, even misfires and clunkers wind up being funnier and more polished than another comic’s entire set. Because, when you’re David Brenner, you’re not trying to prove anything anymore.
His material ranged from the changing way people absorb their news, to marvelling at how YouTube has pervaded our culture (A little over 8 years ago no one gave a shit if a cat could play the piano …) to random absurd musings (There’s a new pill that grows hair. What if it gets stuck in your throat?) to stories about the old neighborhood, to wry quips (More men are selling sperm now than ever before. I’m letting a fortune slip through my fingers).
Truth is, Brenner had us at ‘hello’, but being in the presence of someone who loves what he does is a rare treat and an honor.
Here for three nights only, the final show is tonight. Grab a ticket while you can.
~~~David Brenner Metropolitan Room 34 West 22nd St. (Between 5th and 6th Avenues) New York, NY 10010 . Saturday 08/25/12 7:00 PM Ticket Price: $25.00
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