The day I told a David Brenner joke to David Brenner, he talked about dying

The last time I talked to David Brenner, I told him a David Brenner joke that made me laugh for 30 years.

I’ll paraphrase the joke for you in Brenner’s Philadelphia-New York style:

Brenner was riding the subway one day when a guy on the train said to him, “Heyyy, I saw you on TV.” Brenner stood up, bowed and said, “Thank you,” with a big self-satisfied smile. Brenner was feeling good about himself. Then the guy turned to someone else on the train and said, “Heyyy, I saw you on TV.”

I remember seeing Brenner do that joke about humility and celebrity on “The Tonight Show,” and I laughed and laughed.

A year and a half ago, I was talking to Brenner, and I recited the joke. Unlike Jerry Seinfeld, Brenner didn’t mind a fan reminding him of a killer set from his younger days.

“I didn’t think it was that funny at the time,” Brenner said. “It really happened.”

Brenner died of cancer over the weekend. Here’s a look back at the interview piece we ran in the Review-Journal in late 2012, in which Brenner spoke of his pending death in the form of remembrances and jokes.

Posted October 11, 2012 - 2:02am

Brenner lives in New York but loves coming back to Vegas

David Brenner is happy to be back onstage in Vegas this weekend, performing Saturday and Sunday at the Suncoast. At age 76, he jokes that fans “better see me while I still am.”

“I said this to George Carlin: ‘You and I have the same problem with our careers — attrition. Most of our fans have died. Those that haven’t died are not going out at night.’”

I told Brenner that if it’s a race between his fans dying and him dying — better them than him, right?

“That’s true,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll go along with that. That’s the title of a book.”

This election season is prime time for Brenner to tell social commentary jokes, although he claims to hate politics at the moment, since he wanted Mike Huckabee to get the Republican nomination.

“The reason was, they asked him if he could pick anybody he wants to be his running mate, his vice president, who would it be. And he answered ‘Jesus Christ.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, God forbid anything happens to him, we’ll have a Jewish president.’”

Brenner moved back to New York this year, leaving Vegas behind after headlining and living here for years. He misses his good friends, his regular showroom show, and the 24-7 nature of Vegas.

In New York, the 24-hour vibe is spread across the city in pockets.

“In Vegas, it’s jammed into one small place, and the whole place feels like action. There’s no nighttime, there’s no dull time, there’s only Vegas time. There’s only excitement. I miss that.”

And unlike New York City, even the suburbs of Vegas offer more 24-hour opportunities, such as renting a carpet cleaner from a retailer or shopping at a hardware store at 4 a.m.

“There’s nothing in Vegas you can’t name that’s not 24 hours. So it’s more of a 24-hour town than New York City.”

New York also has that air pollution problem.

“I think in New York City, they’re approaching air pollution all wrong. They’re trying to decrease it. And what we should do is try to increase it, to make the air particles so big, they don’t fit in your nose.”