the schmooze

Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

"Der komiker" (the comedian), David Brenner, 78, recently passed away.  He was born to Jewish parents.  His father, Louis, gave up his career and a film contract in order to please Brenner's grandfather, a rabbi, who objected to his working on the Sabbath.

David was survived by his wife, and his three sons, Cole, Wyatt, Slade and his "eynikl" (grandchild), Wesley.

Brenner said that Jewish comedians "Were the funniest because we have a 5,000-year head start on everyone."

Shown below is a Yiddish guide to David Brenner:

"alt" (old)
Brenner said, "You know you're getting old when kids start to dress like you used to and movies are made about your teen life."

"You know you're getting old when you start to dress in more than six colors."

"betler" (beggar)
Brenner told the story about being approached by a panhandler/beggar asking for "spare change."  He replied, "Oh, I'm so glad I ran into you.  I was about to throw all of these quarters into the street."

"buks" (books)
Brenner is the author of the following books:
"Soft Pretzels with Mustard" (a Philadelphia "nosh"/snack)
"Nobody Ever Sees You Eat Tuna Fish"
"Revenge is the Best Exercise"--a joke book
"If God Wanted Us to Travel"
"I Think There's a Terrorist in My Soup:  How to Survive Personal and World Problems with Laughter"

"fridzhider" (refrigerator)
In an interview with the Forward's Curt Schleiere, Brenner said, "I was brought up by my family to be free to decide.  My father kept his own shelf in the refrigerator, where he kept his own foods and I had my own shelf where I kept my bacon."  "Beykon"?  It's a "shande."

"got" (God)
One of Brenner's favorite stories is titled, "The Fish Bowl":  Two fish are swimming ("shvimen") aroun in a fish bowl.  One fish asks the other: "Is there a God?"  The second fish answers, "Of course there's a God." The first fish replies, "What makes you so certain there's a God?"  The second fish replies, "Someone changes the water."
Marjorie adds:  "Me lebt a tog."  (This is real enjoyment.  One lives a day.)

"heym" (home)
At one time, Brenner owned a four-story townhouse on Manhattan's Upper West Side.  He would tell a "bazukher" (visitor), "Four hundred years of Brenner poverty stops here."

"kaldedzh"/"universitet" (college)
Brenner attended Temple University, where he majored in mass communication and graduated with honors.

"kamtsn" (miser)
"vunderlekh" (wonderful)
Brenner said, "Misers aren't fun to live with, but they make wonderful ancestors."

"kinder" (children)
Brenner spent 5 years in the 1980s and '90s fighting for custody of his son, Slade, and then he spent 3 years in the 2000s, fighting for custody of his other two sons, Wyatt and Cole.  When he finally won custody, which was a miracle ("nes"), he had become one of the forgotten men of comedy."

"klayder" (clothing)
Brenner sometimes flaunted his jewelry and tended to be daring and experimental in his clothing.

"komedie" (comedy)
Brenner said, "Comedy for me is just a means to an end, a way of reaching my financial goals."

"konkurent" (competitor)
In 1986, Brenner and Joan Rivers competed against each other by hosting separate late-night variety shows.  Neither series lasted.

"muter"/"mameh" (mother)
Brenner's mother was a housewife--an artist who did ceramics as a hobby.

"Mogen Dovid" (Star of David)
Brenner said, "I wear a tiny Mogen David on a thin gold chain around my neck.  "I wear it in memory of one of the more than million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in World War II."

"oremkeit" (poverty)
Brenner faced extreme poverty during his childhood in South Philadelphia.

"parug"/"shaytl" (toupee/wig)
Brenner spoke about the evangelist who cures people on TV:  "And he wears a toupee?  I don't get it!  He can fix a guy's legs, but he can't put some hairs on his own head?"  "Gut gezogt!"  (Well said!)

"perzon" (person)
The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia named Brenner their Person of the Year in 1984 and inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2003.

IN 2008, Brenner told the Philadelphia Jewish Voice that some in his family expected him to become a rabbi, like his uncles, but he chose comedy instead.

"sheptshen" (to whisper)
Brenner said, "I don't like to watch golf on television because I can't stand people who whisper."  

"shkheyneshaft" (neighborhood)
Brenner enjoyed talking about his rough neighborhood in Philadelphia.
He said, "I went into a bar once and said, 'What do you have on ice?"
The bartender replied, 'You wouldn't know him.'"

"sobvey" (subway)
Brenner said, "I was on the subway sitting on a newspaper, and a man came over and asked if I was reading it.  I looked at him. What was I going to say?  "I'm nearsighted?"  Two weeks later it happens again.  Asked if I was reading the paper, I just said yes, got up, turned the page, and sat down again."

"tateh" (father)
Brenner's father, Louis Brenner, had been a vaudeville "komike" (comedian) and song-and-dance man who quit the stage ("di bine") when he was young.  Later he made a bare living as a bookie, gambler and insurance ("strakhirung") salesman.

"televisye" (television)
Brenner, with his laid-back style, made him a natural for late-night TV. He started with Johnny Carson's Tonight Show in 1971 and appeared about 158 times, not counting substitute-hosting gigs.

"tsol" (number)
Brenner was ranked No. 53 on Comedy Central Presents:  100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.

"zun" (son)
Brenner was the son of a vaudville "komiker" but he went a different route.  He pioneered what became known as observational comedy-- good-natured gags about everyday absurdities.  Note:  The Yiddish word for "gag" is "halotse."

MARJORIE WOLFE will miss David Brenner's sense of humor.  No one ever had to tell Brenner, "Hak nit keyn tshaynik"--Don't be long-winded and boring."


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

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