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Home Is Where the 'Ha!' Is!
"What more can a Philly guy do than start my tour right here, right at home?" says the comedian/author whose own West Side story recalls his days as a gang member in West Philly and whose South Philly roots had him rooting for rock icons from the 'hood. "There were 45 of us in the gang, we'd protect old people and girls from the Jew-haters in the neighborhood."
Dunno, sounds like a musical to me.
"Hey, there's the 'Jersey Boys,' yeah. But know what's better? The 'Philly Boys' -- Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, James Darren, Fabian -- their music was better. Hey, they do 'The Philly Boys,' I could be the narrator."
He'd be comfortable on stage, where Brenner's been all his life -- since the award-winning documentarian left his role at KYW-TV to roll with the punchlines worldwide.
He was on an island vacation, sunning himself, when Lou Brenner's funny son decided that winning Emmys was great, but winning over audiences with laughs was even better.
"So," he recalls, "I quit."
Have you heard the latest? The KYW alum never gave up TV; he's been a regular late-night show/host and radio regular on Howard Stern's gang for years.
So, who better to schmooze the news with than Brenner, coming home to take off with his 40th-anniversary tour -- "Leave 'em Laughing" -- like he's never left, May 15 and May 16 at the Prince Music Theatre in Center City.
Apparently, home is where the "ha" is!
And part of that comedy partakes of conspiracy theories; Brenner breathes secrets and set-ups, exhaling truths.
Does he believe any of these conspiracy theories? "No," he says. "Not a one."
Conned by a pro. But then, there's his street savvy in this kid-from-the-corner come on that's made him forever young -- until recently. He had always knocked nine years off his age, but finally the candles caught up with him on a Stern show.
Okay, he's 73, he admits. Just don't call him the comeback kidder on this tour. Call him the Treasury's best-minted coin of the realm: "What's more recession proof than laughter?" he kids.
The government gets its own ribbing. So, if Brenner can find terrorists -- there they are, he found them, floating in his book, There's a Terrorist in My Soup -- why can't the government?
"Because I don't have a father connected" to the Saudis, he says.
But he is connected to the laughter: "On June 9, it'll be 40 years to the day that I got up on stage and performed as a comedian."
And it was eight years ago that he used humor as a one-man band to bond with others suffering the post-9/11 stress and heartache. "People," relates Brenner, "got to laugh."
And this artist concedes he enjoys "painting my life in jokes."
Masterpieces from the master of his domain? All promised for his Prince gig: "My greatest bits with all the killer routines."
Murder by mirth -- he's done it on HBO and around the world. But that world is getting more crowded. "When I started out, there were what -- 300 comics performing? Now there are 14,000! How can so many people get so funny so quick?"
Answer: "They can't."
But he was taught the "can-do" dynamic early on.
"My father," he says of the legendary Lou, "who lived to be 92, was the funniest man in the world."
But the son will come out tomorrow giving it his best shot. This from a man who has helped give other comics a shot in the arm.
A funny man who takes loyalty seriously? Just ask Richard Lewis or Andrew "Dice" Clay, comics for whom Brenner has rolled the dice.
He's a man of his word: "Art Fisher, a famous TV director, said he would give me the word that will guide me through my whole life."
And that word, for the comic who honors contracts and friendships?
"That word was 'honor.' "