Philadelphia homeboy David Brenner may be better known for his one-liners than his award-winning documentaries.
But the mass of video clips and programs that the comedian donated to Temple University on Thursday contained 23 of 115 documentaries he wrote and produced before quitting in 1969 to do that other stuff.There's a rare documentary about Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish filmmaker; a series he wrote about crime in Philadelphia, and an Emmy-winning piece titled "On Call: Dr. Amato."
Lest his comedy fans worry, though, the collection also includes all but one of his 157 appearances on "The Tonight Show." (The television set was broken one evening, he said.)
Plus all of his "Nightlife" talk shows, and three episodes of "Snip," a situation comedy that starred Brenner but was canceled before it was aired.
"I'm giving to you where I have been and I hope you take it to where you're going," Brenner told about 200 students recently at his alma mater.
Brenner remembered how he rode the subway from West Philadelphia to his classes at Temple, in North Philadelphia. He graduated in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in communications.
His long-term goal when he was a Temple University student? "To get out of Temple University," Brenner told one student.
After that, he said, his goal was "just to get the money to get my family out of West Philadelphia."
Brenner told students how his family was evicted from its home when he was a child, how he'd lived for a time in an apartment above a laundromat where the temperature would rise to 140 degrees when the dryers were running.
Those experiences, he said, drove him to succeed. Now he owns a condo in Manhattan and a home in Aspen, Colo.
Brenner said he hoped his 9-year-old son would attend Temple and see his father's work. The tapes and films, much of which Brenner's father recorded, will be housed at the university's Paley Library.
Howard A. Myrick, chairman of Temple's department of radio-TV-film in the School of Communications, said researchers would use the material to study such subjects as television's role in society.
While Brenner's talk recalled hard times, there were also the one-liners.
To one man with a Slavic accent and a long question, he said, "First of all, keep the accent. It's good."
Advice to other aspiring comics: "Don't steal my act."
He talked about how comedy probably saved him a million dollars in psychotherapy. The night his mother died in 1986, Brenner was scheduled to perform at a college concert. He went on with the show.
"When I came off the stage," he said, "I was better off than when I went out because of the comedy."