David Brenner has made audiences laugh across the country, from small clubs in Philadelphia to huge stages in Vegas, to the set of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
But despite this, he hasn’t forgotten his roots in South and West Philadelphia. Now he’s returning to provide laughs at Valley Forge Casino Resort next weekend and New Year’s Eve.
Brenner will present his show “Comedy Stars of Tomorrow” at the casino Dec. 27, 28, 29 and 31 at the casino’s Waterford Ballroom. The show features newcomers Vicky Kuperman, Jay Black, Rich Harkaway and LaTice Mitchell.
“He’s bringing in these comedians that are sort of top rising stars,” says Valley Forge Casino Resort President and CEO Mike Bowman.
“We have more entertainment and events for New Year’s than any other casino in Pennsylvania,” he adds. “So when you look at the overall strategy, it was a no-brainer to bring in a Philly native with these rising comedy stars. It’s gonna be rockin’.”
It’s Brenner’s first time playing Valley Forge Casino Resort, and he’s excited to do a show so close to home.
“It’s always good coming back,” he says about returning to the region. “I’ve played a lot of clubs [in Philadelphia]. My all-time favorite was Columbo’s in South Philadelphia.”
The club looked like a row house, he recalls, located around the corner from the Ninth Street Market, with other small clubs next to it, and patrons used to work their way down the street from one to the next.
After getting his start performing on street corners in the city, clubs like this provided his first formal gigs. After he became famous nationally, he says he made a list of the top 25 small places he performed while starting out so he could return to each to pay them back for the help they offered him.
“Of the 25, 14 were still around, and I played them all for what I had charged at the time. So I played all these shitholes in the Midwest and got paid $400 for the weekend,” he says, laughing, “when here I am in Vegas making five figures and six figures.”
He even returned to Columbo’s. And when a venue in Atlantic City stipulated in its contract that he not play another venue within 60 miles, he got the contract changed to allow him to play the small club that gave him a chance early on.
“I don’t know anyone else that’s that stupid,” he laughs. “But it’s only fair. And it’s such a nice, touching thing for you, too. It really makes you feel good. So it’s good for them and it’s good for you.”
Not only has he been paying it back, but now he’s paying it forward, too. In the same spirit as the club owners who gave him a chance, he’s now using his fame and resources to help young comics just starting out to get their footing.
That was the motivation for his “Comedy Stars of Tomorrow” tour. He said he was talking to a comedy friend of his who came up with him on the comedy circuit in the 70s about comedy then and comedy today. He asked his friend how the really funny comics would get exposure.
“He said, ‘The cream will rise to the top,’” Brenner says. “And I said, ‘But how do you find them in a sea of milk?’”
So he began going to clubs for young comedians, like Gotham Comedy Club in New York, as well as sites online, and began weeding out comics until he got down to four that could really make him laugh, and that’s how the project got started.
Brenner will kick off the show, and then each of the four comics will come out to do a bit after a three-minute introductory video about them.
“It gets you to know them, and you get to like them, and then you’re really pulling for them to be funny and make you laugh,” he says. “And then they come out and give you their best stuff.”