David Kleinberg, a Renaissance man who has appeared as a standup comic on the same bill as Robin Williams, Dana Carvey and Richard Lewis, is only mildly obsessed with killing. 

He’s fond of saying that when you succeed at comedy, you “kill the audience,” and when you don’t, you “die on stage.” He adds: “‘Kill or be killed,’ as my old drill sergeant used to say.”  

Kleinberg was fully aware of those well-worn aphorisms as he painstakingly prepared a new one-man show. But just when he was ready to perform it in Marin, the pandemic peaked and — what else? — killed in-person performances.  

“It was the worst possible timing,” laments the San Francisco native. 

Now, though, “He Wants to Run,” his updated, improved monologue about a guy who doesn’t particularly like jogging or dogs — yet befriends a neighbor’s boxer and runs with him for almost 13 years —will open at The Marsh San Francisco on Feb. 4.  

The truth-based show — written and performed by Kleinberg, directed by Mark Kenward and developed with David Ford — also focuses on the pleasures and pitfalls of owning a vacation home in an impoverished area on the Russian River in Cloverdale, as well as what the pooch, Butler, taught him about dying and living.  

Kleinberg insists he’s always preferred basketball to jogging. The 79-year-old quit shooting hoops only two months ago after getting a pinched nerve that was painful: “ I took it as a signal to stop — I wanted to walk off the court rather than be carried off,” he says.  

But he started running at his summer place for add-on exercise. 

Despite his intense desire to run alone, he remembers that whenever he’d start, Butler would follow and go after him: “Essentially, he wore me down. He’d wait for me to come out, then fly across the road, jump in the air, put my running pants in his teeth, and pull me toward the road so we could run.”  

David Kleinberg’s latest show covers what happened to him after he took up running. (Courtesy David Kleinberg)

As he aged, Butler got fatter and slower.  

And despite their longtime connection, Kleinberg adds, “The ironic thing is there isn’t one single picture of us running together. Our relationship was never about Instagram.”  

Kleinberg transitioned from comedy to one-man shows long enough ago to have created three others: “The Voice,” about his sex addiction and subsequent two decades of recovery, as well as his homophobia; “Hey, Hey, LBJ!,” about his four years as an information specialist in Vietnam (“My job was to go out with soldiers and to shoot pictures when people were shooting us”); and “Return to the Scene of the Crime,” about his traumatic trip back to Vietnam, where some of his buddies had been killed or wounded half a century before.  

On his website (davidkleinberg.weebly.com) under the heading “upcoming gigs,” it says he’s recently “been hibernating in the solo theater world. We’ll warn you when he thinks about returning to standup.”  

Kleinberg’s interest in comedy stemmed from going to the hungry i in North Beach while he was in his early 20s, seeing Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Mort Sahl and Bill Cosby. (Tangentially, his prime memories of Robin Williams aren’t about his appearance with him, but the two times he interviewed him for the San Francisco Chronicle where he spent 34 years, including a long stint as Datebook editor, after starting as a copy boy at 17). 

“I interviewed him just before ‘Good Morning Vietnam.’ It was really hot, and I agreed with him that it was ‘a beautiful global-warming day.’ The other time, we were again talking about climate, and he said about it, ‘People are like addicts. They won’t do anything until they hit bottom.’”  

After Kleinberg left the Chronicle, he and his wife Pat ran Elderhostel education-travel programs in Tiburon for two decades. “We were a great team,” he recalls. “I work fast and sloppy, she works slow and meticulous. We’d have three courses at a time, as diverse as ‘Operas of Puccini,’ ‘Middle East Conflicts’ and ‘French Impressionist Art.’”  

What lies ahead? Possibly another one-man show: a dark social satire (that he started as a science-fiction novel some 35 years ago) about a 495-pound gorilla trained to play fullback for a professional football team. 

“He Wants to Run” runs Feb. 4-12 at The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St., from Feb. 4-12. Tickets are $20- $100. Call 415-282-3055 or visit themarsh.org.