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October 20, 2014

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Off the Strip:

David Brenner, stuck at home

For two weeks a month he’s in Vegas with his kids, but it’s been a year since he’s performed here

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David Brenner

Somewhere between his life as an Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker and his career as one of the most recognizable comedians in the country, the world became complicated for David Brenner.

IF YOU GO

Who: David Brenner

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday

Where: Suncoast Showroom

Tickets: $22 to $44; 636-7075

Beyond the Sun

“I have spent 19 of the last 21 years of my life in family court or dealing with family court matters,” Brenner says.

This weekend he’ll be at the Suncoast, where he will rip his act from the day’s headlines covering the likes of politics, the economy, the Olympics and anything else that strikes his funny bone.

The custody wars began in the ’80s over his first son, Cole, a fight he won at a cost not just in money but to his career, which stalled while the court battles raged for years.

Then, after moving to Las Vegas in the ’90s, he married and had two sons, now 10 and 13 — which resulted in another custody battle.

“I feel parents should be kept in the child’s life unless something is really wrong with the parent, like a crack dealer or something,” says Brenner, still a Vegas resident. “My ex tried to take the boys out of state and I went to court again. I won.”

Or, maybe he lost.

“She married a guy in California, but now she has to be here the first two weeks out of the month to be with the boys,” Brenner says. “I have them the last two weeks, so I have to be here. That’s what it comes down to.”

For the past five years he’s been dating former Olympic figure skater Tai Babilonia.

“She has a similar situation in California,” he says. “She’s divorced and has a 13-year-old son. She has to be in California for two weeks when she has her son, but otherwise she can live anywhere.”

They have their children the same two weeks of the month, so when they are childless they spend time together.

“With two weeks off, we try to get out of town for awhile, get away,” Brenner says.

He would like to spend more time in Vegas, working, but the opportunities aren’t here. After a few successful runs at the Hilton and Golden Nugget and Westin he last performed here a year ago — at the Suncoast.

“Once I ended my full-time sit-down runs I had to go back on the road,” he says. “I would like to find the right room and, more importantly, be treated nicely. Therein lies the rub. I don’t have to be treated special but I don’t like to be treated with disrespect either.”

He spends a lot of time at Indian casinos and other venues across the country.

“Places where the corporation hasn’t bought up the towns, which has happened here,” Brenner says. “Places where I know I will be treated great.”

Since politics is one of his favorite topics, this presidential election year provides a lot of fodder.

“But I don’t like to shoot fish in a barrel, to pick on things so obvious like Clinton with his sex problems,” Brenner says. “That’s too easy. It’s like not fighting a good contender — you don’t get a chance to show how good you are, doing that. My challenge is always finding what’s funny in everything, whether the Olympics or whatever is going on.”

Barack Obama is a sensitive issue. You can’t make fun of his race.

“That would just be showing your bigotry,” he says. “But you can make fun of his ears. Not that they’re brown, but he can definitely fly — and he doesn’t run a lot. He can run for office, but he can’t run for the bus.”

On the other hand, McCain’s age is fair game.

“He’s old and we’re all aging and we make fun of it,” says Brenner, who’s 63.

He caught both presidential nominees in a grammatical error.

“They have their slogans,” he says. “Obama’s slogan is ‘Change you can believe in,’ and McCain’s is ‘A president you can believe in.’ You don’t end a sentence with ‘in.’ It should be ‘Change in which you can believe’ and ‘A president in which you can believe.’ ”

Brenner is impressed with Obama.

“He’s so interesting and so charismatic and a great orator,” Brenner says, “sort of like what John F. Kennedy was to one generation. People want to see this magical man, this guy who came out of nowhere. But these large crowds he’s drawing compared to John McCain, who can’t sell a town meeting, they don’t mean anything. They’re coming to see a star.

“Americans say one thing and do something else. They may say Obama is half-black, half-white, or they don’t care — that it’s about the quality of the person and what he’s going to do for the nation. That’s all that matters. But when they get in the voting booth and the curtain closes, that’s when they can be prejudiced without anyone knowing it — so I don’t think Obama is a shoo-in.”

It might be different, Brenner says, if it were a worldwide vote.

“On the day that Obama was addressing 200,000 Germans in Berlin, McCain is in Columbus, Ohio, at a German restaurant talking to about six people. That juxtaposition cracked me up,” Brenner says. “If the world could vote he would easily win because the world has people of color.”

Brenner notes that no matter who wins, at least President Bush will be out.

“I think he’s really dumb,” Brenner says. “He ignored Israeli spies who told him that if we go into Iraq we’re going to have the same problems we had in Vietnam — you can’t identify your enemy and you’re going to cause a civil war. Everything they said was going to happen has happened.”

He’s amazed at the money we’re spending to rebuild Iraq.

“We’re paying Iraq $130 a barrel for oil and we’re spending billions to rebuild their infrastructure,” he says. “We should be getting the oil for free, or making a profit on it. Isn’t that why we went to war in the first place?”

Although Brenner loves comedy, he wishes there was no need for comedians.

“My wish is that no professional comedians in the world would exist because people’s lives were so good they wouldn’t need artificial laughter from someone else,” he says. “But the way things are, I think the employment will rage forever.”

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