For 15 years, Eddie Brill has been warming up audiences for "Late Show With David Letterman" in the notoriously chilly Ed Sullivan Theater. His edgy stand-up comedy has traveled to international stages since 1989 along with more than 100 television appearances.
The gregarious Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, native also has been on "Letterman" 10 times himself and for 11 years was the show's comedy talent coordinator until earlier this year. Brill, 53, also is the creative director of The Great American Comedy Festival in Norfolk, Neb., which is dedicated to another late-night legend, Johnny Carson.
Before returning to the Dix Hills Performing Arts Center for the third time Saturday night, Sept. 22, the comic discussed his shtick.
How did you get the warm-up gig?
There's a comedian named Louis C.K. who worked there as a writer, and he had recommended me. I had done the warm-up for other TV shows, they were looking for a new warm-up, and I got a six-week trial period that turned into 15-plus years.
What are your favorite memories working in the Ed Sullivan Theater?
Which other Long Island clubs do you play?
I've done Governor's Comedy Club, for years and years. I've worked pretty much all the Long Island clubs over the years. I still do. But there's a lot of them that are no longer there anymore, like the East End. I've worked Amagansett and the Hamptons. I've worked pretty much from one end of Long Island to the other. In the old days, there was a ChiChi's in Great Neck. That was funny, because as the night would progress and people would drink more tequila, the crowd would get louder and rowdier, and you would try to go on early when you did that show.
Which memories stand out from your Long Island appearances?
The truth is that this gig in Dix Hills has become one of my favorites. It's very professional, and the audiences are outstanding. The audiences just come together for a good time, and they're very open-minded and fun, and that's all you can ask. I was supposed to do 45 minutes last time, and I did almost an hour and a half. I had such a good time.
How'd you get the Carson festival?
A little more than six years ago, the people of Johnny Carson's hometown of Norfolk, Neb., contacted me about helping them with this idea they had to do an amateur comedy festival, and I met them, and they were wonderful. And in that meeting, I convinced them to let me run a professional comedy festival, and it turned out to be one of the most powerful, most creative comedy festivals in the world, and I'm very proud to be part of it. I'm very lucky. When it's all said and done, my name will be next to Johnny Carson and David Letterman.
You've played Norfolk, Neb. You've played New York City. Which cities or venues have the best audiences?
My favorite audiences in the world are the Irish audiences, the ones in Ireland. They are just such spirited people, and they love their entertainment. I love performing all over the world, and I've been very lucky to do over a hundred TV shows in six different countries, performances in Australia, Hong Kong and Paris, and there are a few cities I like more than others, but the reason why I like some of these cities is because of the combination of culture and the people, and that's places like Vancouver; Sydney, Australia; Galway, Ireland. Some of these places are amazing, and I would look forward to going back.
What's the most unusual heckling you ever got?
I once worked a bar [near] Plymouth, Mass., aptly named the Charlie Horse, and it was a biker bar where the men were all in one room playing pool and fighting and hitting each other over the head with pool sticks. I asked the owner, "Where is the comedy?" He pointed to this other room, where the women were waiting for their men to beat each other up and then take them home. And I brought a date to this gig! These people were not paying attention to me. One woman with a beer in one hand and her baby stroller in the other was the only one watching, and I said, "Well, at least you're paying attention." And she went, "---- you!" and threw her bottle of beer at me and just narrowly missed me.
What would you like your fans to know about you that they don't have a clue about?
That I spend of lot of my summers in Long Island. I spent a lot of time in Centereach as a kid in the summers with my aunt and cousins, and then my father, Norman, eventually moved to Long Island, and I would come up from Florida in the summer and spend time with him. My whole childhood in the '60s was out on Long Island in the summer, and then my father in the '70s had moved to Long Island -- Oceanside -- and I would come there to visit him.
Do you have any particular memories on the Island?
I remember going to the beach in Lake Ronkonkoma and thinking, "This sand is not really comfortable." I think the people in Brighton, England, can relate to the kind of sand they had at Lake Ronkonkoma.
You did a funny bit on online dating on "Letterman" last October. Was that from personal experience?
Yes, that was a true story. I've noticed how people really are afraid to be themselves, and so it's interesting how people create characters to try to impress other people, and what I've learned is that the more you are yourself, the better off you are, despite the fact that we don't tend to go that way.
Was there any particular experience in online dating where you just shook your head and you couldn't believe it?
Lots. You know, the one I talked about on TV where this woman showed up and she was 25 years older than her picture. There was also this one woman who didn't really have a picture of herself, and in all of our conversations on the phone she was telling me how she was just had such a hard time because there were so many men in her life, and when I met her, I couldn't see how that would be true.
Which comedian has influenced you the most?
George Carlin. Because he told the truth. He was a combination of smart and silly. He had a soul that was so beautiful and so smart, and shared it in such an artistic way, that I was very blessed. He was my hero and eventually became my friend and gave me lots of advice along the way to help me become a better comedian.
Today, who is the best comedian out there?
Well, comedy is subjective, so it's hard to say who's the best. In my eyes, I think the best stand-up out there is Chris Rock. He's the most truthful and the smartest.
Let's find out a few of your favorite things, such as your favorite singer.
Your favorite group?
I would say The Who, the Beatles, a band called Eels, and XTC. And Gang of Four. That's another one I love with all my heart.
What's your favorite movie of his?
It's very hard to say. Not "The Big Lebowski," although I love it. My favorite movie of all time is "Cinema Paradiso."
Why that one?
It's about love between people, love of film, it's an incredible love story with one of the greatest soundtracks ever.
Besides "Letterman," your favorite TV show?
There are so many great ones. The original British "The Office."
What do you think of the American version?
Never watched it. Although I've heard that the American version is pretty good, the Americans have messed up most of the great British sitcoms.
What are your top three sitcoms of all time?
I would say "Green Acres," "The Bob Newhart Show" and "All in the Family." You know, I watched "Mr. Ed" again. It still stands up today and gets big laughs. Yeah, I would put "Mr. Ed" over "All in the Family."
Why "Green Acres"?
It's silly, funny. Smart and silly is my favorite combination.
Again, there are so many. My favorite book is "Confederacy of Dunces," but my favorite author would probably be Lawrence Block. He's a mystery writer.
Again, I have so many. I would say baseballprospectus.com.
Do you play fantasy baseball?
Yes, since 1986. I've done pretty well. I've won my whole league a few times. It's my sort of noncreative getaway.
Have you ever thought of being a baseball scout?
Yeah, I've always had that dream. My father was a great baseball player. He was a catcher. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Athletics, and unfortunately didn't say yes because he got married and did my grandfather's business, electronic wholesaling. But he was really great. He caught Sandy Koufax in high school in the all-star games. He was the all-star catcher. He was the guy who'd bat almost .600 in high school. They called him "Yogi" because he was that good of a catcher, and Gil Hodges and Mickey Mantle, they knew about him and they followed him.
Did he talk about catching Koufax?
Yeah. He told me when they played the other all-star teams, they were both in Coney Island and my father was at Lincoln [High School], and Koufax at Lafayette. And so he got to catch Sandy Koufax, and he said that he had never caught a pitcher who had so much movement on his baseball. He put the ball where he wanted every time.
But in his early days as a Dodger, he was a little wild.
Yeah. My father might have changed history . . . you know what I mean. He had always heard about Koufax and batted against him, but he said it was a real honor to catch him.
What's your favorite team?
The Mets. They won the World Series on my 11th birthday in 1969.
And your favorite Mets player?
Of all time, I'll say Bobby Ojeda. We're very close friends.
What's your favorite food?
I'm a vegan, 100 percent vegan, and 80 percent raw foodist. It changed my life. I've lost 130 pounds, became very healthy, and I only eat real food nowadays, as opposed to most of America, which eats processed food and food that's created by man. I eat food that's all from the earth.
Finally, your favorite snack?
A juice that is made out of mostly greens.
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, Dix Hills Performing Arts Center, 310 N. Service Rd.
INFO $25-$30; 631-656-2148, dhpac.org