The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia honored David Brenner in 1984 as our “Person of the Year.” He was inducted into our “Hall of Fame” on June 18, 2003. Daivd passed away on Saturday, March 15, 2014 in New York City from cancer.
David Brenner e-mailed us:
I graduated from the School of Communications (Temple University) which was situated in the middle of the mass known as the North Philly slum, as opposed to the one in which I was living in West Philly. I wrote, produced and directed documentaries for KYW (television), heading up the department for Westinghouse, before moving to NYC to the same job for Metromedia Broadcasting, then to Public Broadcasting where I made the decision that nothing I had done on TV changed one damn thing, that Man has all the answers and solutions to the inequities but just doesn't want to implement them, probably a combination of Man's innate evil and all the money that can be made from Man's suffering. So, I quit trying to solve the problems and decided to make people laugh about them. Every so often, I see a new version of the same documentary that I did over thirty years ago. I should laugh, but I don't.
David told us by telephone late in 2012 about his first shot at comedy. He said that he was working at Channel 3 when Westinghouse came back to Philadelphia. "The Mike Douglas Show" came to Philly and management thought that the program should be live in Philadelphia. The telecast was syndicated across the country via video tape but live here in the Quaker City. Why? Because management thought it would create excitement. Well, one day well-known comedian Shelley Berman was delayed on the train from NYC because of snow. Douglas was live and someone needed to fill the time. Brenner was well known around the station as a wit and making people laugh.
Brenner continued by saying that Berman was alloted 10 minutes. They filled half the time with Douglas singing a song and the remaining 5 minutes was given to Brenner. From there, he started appearing in clubs as a sideline. While he was working in the Big Apple doing documentaries, the large city opened up doors and next thing he knew he was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
David Brenner has written and produced 115 documentaries, that earned him a total of nearly thirty awards and citations including an Emmy for his program, “On Call: Dr. Amato.” Brenner is the author of five top selling books.
From David’s website:
This multi-talented man began as a kid in the poor sections of South and West Philadelphia where he was a gang leader who used humor as a powerful weapon and as a negotiating tool. From fourth grade through high school, Brenner was elected class president, as well as class comedian. He attended Temple University where, in spite of being funny, he graduated with honors, majoring in mass communications.
While at Temple University, David Brenner like most communications students was involved in local campus productions including WRTI-FM. Some were done for WFIL-FM (WFIL Studio Schoolhouse) in association with the School District of Philadelphia and were produced by former Broadcast Pioneers President Marguerite Farley. David said by e-mail:
My involvement with the station, when I was a Mass Comm. major, was as a background voice and then gravel pit walker for the radio show we did for the Philly schools.
His website also said:
Beginning with his debut National TV appearance on The Tonight Show, where he went on to make 158 appearances, the most of any guest on the show. He has continued to be the most frequent talk show guest of any entertainer, as confirmed in "The Book of Lists #2." Today, Brenner is a regular on David Letterman and, because his act is based on "very" current events and he is recognized as a political pundit, also he appears on news-oriented shows, like MSNBC with Chris Matthews and a slew of others on CNN and The Fox Network. Among other shows, he is also a frequent guest on Greg Kilborn, Jon Stewart, Hollywood Squares and Bill O'Reilly.
While other comedians debated whether to tell jokes after September 11, 2001, David Brenner terminated a forty-eight week engagement in Las Vegas to go on a nationwide tour he entitled "Laughter to The People", which has since taken him on the road every week to almost all fifty states. In his own words: "I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine and that if one can laugh, one can live. The same applies to a country and her people." It has been the most gratifying tour of his career, which is saying a lot for someone who has been making the American people laugh since 1971.
David Brenner has three sons: Cole, Slade and Wyatt.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo and bio use courtesy of David Brenner
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