David Brenner was one of the greatest

David Brenner died Friday, age 78. He was one of the funniest people I ever saw perform.

More than two decades ago, I saw him in Toronto, at a theatre then known as the O’Keefe Centre. There was a musical opening act whom I have long-since forgotten. Then Elayne Boozler came out and did about 20 minutes, mostly about being a single woman with few prospects. “I don’t have a kitchen table. I just have an extra kitchen sink to stand over while I eat.”

Next came Brenner who spent about 90 minutes ostensibly spinning one story – about going to the dentist. Every comedian has done bits about the dentist. Jeremy Hotz has a great bit about the hygienist criticizing his bleeding gums. “Well, maybe if you stopped poking them with those sharp metal instruments…”

David Brenner started talking about the dentist and veered into every facet of life. He was probably just past the zenith of his career, when he was a regular guest host on the Tonight Show, filling in for the oft-absent Johnny Carson. I remember very little of what he actually said that night in Toronto, only that he constructed the perfect 90-minute performance, leveraged on one story about going to the dentist. Most of the audience had forgotten about the set up when he finally got around to the punch line to conclude the evening. It was a master example of writing and performing.

I never saw him perform again, something I now wish I had done.

RIP David Brenner, a very funny man.