Standup comedian David Brenner died today at the age of 78.
He wrote one of my favorite books: Nobody Ever Sees You Eat Tuna Fish.
The title of the book comes from an anecdote Brenner tells about he was so poor as a young child, he had to eat tuna fish sandwiches for lunch every day. It was embarassing–nobody ever wanted to trade lunches with him, but there was nothing he could do. His family couldn’t afford anything else.
He worked hard and worked his way up in show business, eventually appearing on The Tonight Show. Once he had some success, he went back to visit the old neighborhood in Philadelphia were he grew up, and he saw many of his old friends. When they saw him, they teased him, “Oh, there you are, Mr. Big Shot, big California guy!” They treated him as though he were some spoiled rich guy who had all the luck in the world.
Meanwhile, he still felt like the same person, that poor kid who ate tuna fish every day. But no one else seemed to remember how poor he was, or the fact that he struggled with those crappy lunches for years. No matter how hard you have to work to achieve success, he said, no one ever seems to remember what you went through to get there.
Rest in peace, Mr. Brenner, and thank you for all of the laughter you brought to the world while you were here.