Religion In The News

David Brenner Uses My Story In Las Vegas

by Elroy Willis -- August 27, 2003

I was surfing around the internet one day a few months ago, using the keywords "Mistaken Rapture Elroy Willis," to find out if my story had made it to any other parts of the world, and ran across a page that had a review of David Brenner which included a few paragraphs about him using my Mistaken Rapture story in Las Vegas.

I sent an email to several of the people listed on David's website and asked them if it was possible to get an audio or video recording of David doing the Mistaken Rapture story on stage, just to prove that David had really used the story. I wasn't really all that surprised that he used the story, but I wanted to get a tape of it, for my own scrapbook about the story, and to hear the laughs from the audience.

David admits that he grabbed my story off the internet and has used it in several of his live performances, and that he got some great laughs from the audience. I only wish that I could've been there watching him do the story on stage, at least once or twice, just to observe a live performance which included one of the more popular stories I've written.

So far, he hasn't provided me with a tape of his performance of the story, even though he promised to pull it out one last time and send me a tape of it. I did receive a free autographed copy of his latest book, but no tape of him doing Mistaken Rapture on stage.

Mirrored from:

Friday, March 23, 2003

REVIEW: Topical humor carries Brenner's show at Suncoast

Casino officials plan to end weeknight experiment Thursday, citing fear of overexposure for the comedian.

David Brenner performs his style of comedy at the Suncoast.

David Brenner was the first to admit that this was not the right Monday night to expect people to feel funny out in Summerlin.

"I want to compliment you," the comedian told the scattered but respectable crowd at the Suncoast, for coming out "on a wet holiday (St. Patrick's Day) night, especially when we're going to war."

But laughter can be the best medicine for depressing news, and Brenner is a promising guy to expect it from. His live act these days is right in keeping with "The Daily Show" or topical humor on the late-night chat shows, with a particular nod to Jay Leno's goofs on newspaper headlines.

Alas, it's not really any better than those shows. But it's not any worse either, and there is immediacy and a sense of community in seeing it live.

Brenner works from a music stand at midstage, from which he shuffles note cards of news clippings he has collected. This is the same way he started his sets during his last residency at the Golden Nugget, which ran through most of 2001.

The casual approach seems more appropriate for this gig, a weeknight residency at Suncoast for the month of March. "You're part of an experiment," he told the crowd. Instead of traveling every weekend, Brenner was testing the viability of staying put at the hotel, "only seven minutes away" from his house.

However, the decision was already made as he spoke: The experiment concludes on Thursday. Coast Resorts officials decided to offer him more weekends at Suncoast and The Orleans (he will be there May 29-June 1), and say they don't want the weeknights to overexpose his drawing power.

Too bad, in a way. On this cold, depressing night, Brenner generated a loose sense of camaraderie with an audience of locals. If you'd seen him during his days as a Johnny Carson regular, you're familiar with that perplexed/exasperated look and the upturned hands that accent the hopelessness of current events.

An increased terror alert to be on the lookout for "a Yemeni man."

"A Yemeni man?" The look.

Or 24-hour cable TV coverage. "We give 'em all our battle plans. It's like FDR getting on the phone during World War II: `Adolf, what are you doing in northern France? We're coming to Normandy.' "

At the Golden Nugget, Brenner would move on after a few minutes of this, steering into stock material from his catalog of observational comedy.

Never bashful about his accomplishments, the 58-year-old comedian tells his Suncoast audience "I started" the observational school, producing his evidence with lines about what people say when they've lost something:

"`It was in the last place I looked.' Of course it was. Who finds something and then keeps looking for it?"

But then he shifts gears: "It's funny stuff, but I don't do that stuff anymore," he says. Instead, he spent 85 minutes on his journalism-inspired material, then took the final 10 to field questions, a la Rita Rudner. As such, the pace never built to the climax of a well-timed headliner set.

Like Leno's headlines segment, some of the news gags could be taught to future copy editors in journalism school: A photo of a woman seemingly pushing a car into a river next to the (unrelated) headline: "Mental health service in a crisis."

But some of it was just misleading. Brenner spent a long time with the story of an Arkansas woman who jumped to her death in the mistaken belief that the rapture was upon us, calling it the type of "pure humor" that can be presented without embellishment.

Pure humor it was, in fact, as explained on an urban legends Web site:

The rapture story is a satirical piece by Elroy Willis, which was picked up and circulated on the Internet as truth. By failing to mention this, Brenner is, in essence, using Willis as his gag writer.

Similarly, Brenner mines "Bushism" Web sites or the desk calendar "They Misunderestimated Me" for an undeniably funny bit in which he contrasts the pre-Sept. 11 George W. Bush with his post-Sept. 11 quotes.

Contrast "Freedom is non-negotiable," he says, with "More and more of our imports come from overseas."

"How did he change overnight?" Brenner says, throwing out the Look.

He's likely to be flashing it more and more in the coming weeks, even if it's not at the Suncoast.


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