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May 05, 1989 - Image 77

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ENTERTAINMENT

BY DINT OF FATE

Comedian Marty Brill turned a tragedy into a
brilliant career

RITA CHARLESTON

Special to The Jewish News

M

arty Brill was an
accomplished mu-
sician; a concert
pianist on his way
to a brilliant
career. Then tragedy struck.
Involved in an automobile
accident decades ago, Brill
lost the middle finger of his
right hand, and two of the
other fingers on that hand
were also practically
destroyed. His career and his
dreams suddenly came to a
screeching halt. Unable to
play professionally anymore,
he looked around for another
career opportunity.
"Because of my accident I

started going to a shrink,"
Brill recalls. "I'd talk a lot
and he'd laugh a lot. Finally
I figured out that if I was pay-
ing this guy to laugh maybe
I should do the same thing in
front of an audience and let
them pay me. I started by per-
forming in small clubs, pret-
ty much the same way that
the young guys today are do-
ing."
But even Brill himself is
somewhat 'surprised that he
chose comedy as his initial
stab into a new realm of per-
forming. "I was never funny
as a kid," he admits. "But
when you lose the one thing
that you've always counted on
you have to go somewhere
else. I think the primary
thing that kept me going was

the fact that I had good
friends; people who really did
care about me and wanted me
to survive and continue on
with my life."
He says what looked like
the end of the world was, in
fact, in many ways, the begin-
ning because the life he now
lives makes him happier and
maybe even a better person
than he might have been
before.
"Prior to my accident, I
almost never talked," he says.
"In fact, a long time ago I was
a completely different person.
A lot of what a man is is tied
to what he does. In many
ways, what he is becomes who
he is. At least, that was true
in my generation. So when I
realized I wasn't who I had

been anymore, I had to
become somebody else."
Brill claims his newfound
ability to make people laugh
came out of his own personal
crisis. "It's like the Jews
when Hitler was gassing
them. There developed this
gallows-type humor. I think
one of the reasons Jewish
people have always been in
the forefront of comedy
throughout history is because
of their oppression; the horror
of the reality of their lives.
They retreated into the fan-
tasy of comedy. It's also why
we have so many black ghet-
to comics coming up today
from similar backgrounds.
When you can't accept what's
happening to you, when it's
all too painful, you become
funny, trying to find the
humor in all of it as a means
to survive."
While Brill will never forget
those who helped him live
again, he credits Mery Grif-
fin, on whose show he ap-
peared countless times, as the
man who ultimately saved his
life.
"Everybody loves to gossip
about the bad people in this
business while the relly nice
people like Mery get passed
over. But the single-most
marvelous friend I ever had in
my ,life was Mery Griffin
because if it weren't for him,
I probably would have perish-
ed. Mery was a pianist

'Finally I figured
out that if I was
paying this guy to
laugh maybe I
should do the
same thing in front
of an audience and
let them pay me.'

Marty Brill credits talk-show host/entrepreneur Mery Griffin with saving his career.

himself and when he heard
about what happened to me it
was really he who got me off
Death Row." •
In addition to doing stan-
dup, Brill also turned his at-
tention to many other artistic
pursuits. He became a writer,
having scripted episodes of
"M-A-S-H," "Mary Tyler
Moore," "Mork and Mindy,"
"Carter Country" and
"What's Happening."
He also became equally at
ease as an actor, starring in
the national company of the
critically-acclaimed Lenny,
and winning a Boston
Theater Critics Award for his
efforts. When he starred in
the show in the London com-
pany he won an Evening
Standard Award, considered
the British equivalent of the
Tony.
His motion picture credits
include roles in The Pope of

•• ■ •••• ■

GOING PLACES

OF
WEEK OF
MAY 5-11

COMEDY

COMEDY CASTLE

2593 Woodward, Berkley,
Diane Ford, today and
Saturday, Kevin Pollak,
Tuesday through May
13, admission. 542-9900.

THEATER

RIDGEDALE
PLAYERS
205 W. Long Lake, Troy,
The Dining Room, 8 p.m.
today and Saturday and
7 p.m. Sunday, through
May 14, admission,
644-832'8.
THEATRE GUILD OF
LIVONIA
15138 Beech Daily, I'm
Not Rappaport, now
through May 13.
admission. 538-5678.
MICHIGAN OPERA
THEATRE
6519 Second Avenue,
Detroit, The Marriage of
Figaro, Saturday,
admission. 874-SING.
SHAW FESTIVAL
Niagara-on-the-Lake,
Ontario, Man and
Superman, now through
Oct. 15; Berkeley Square,
now through Oct. 14;
and Once in a Lifetime,
Thrusday through July
23, admission. (416)
468-2172.
MEADOW BROOK
THEATRE
Oakland University,
Rochester, Murder at the
Vicarage, now through
May 21, admission,
377-3300.
BIRMINGHAM
THEATRE
211 S. Woodward,
Birmingham, Broadway
Bound, now through
Sunday, admission.
644-3533.
FARMINGTON
PLAYERS
32332 W. 12 Mile,
Farmington Hills, Pack
of Lies, now through
May 13, admission.
538-1670.
STAGECRAFTERS
Baldwin Theatre, 415 S.
Lafayette, Royal Oak,
Hello Dolly, now through
May 19, admission.
541-6430.
ROSEDALE

Continued on Page 88

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

77

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