Tonight Show Fave, Comedian David Brenner Dies at 78
Standup pioneered observational comedy of Seinfeld
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 16, 2014 5:50 AM CDT
This July 13, 1977 file photo shows comedian David Brenner. On Saturday, March 15, 2014, publicist Jeff Abraham announced Brenner has died at the age of 78.    (Uncredited)

(Newser) – Other veteran comics could head straight to The Tonight Show couch to banter with Johnny Carson, but David Brenner had to do a stand-up routine when he was a guest. Finally, Carson told a puzzled Brenner why. "I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes," Brenner, in a 2013 interview with CBS, recalled him saying. Carson's regard for Brenner, who died in his New York City home yesterday at age 78 after battling cancer, made him one of the most frequent visitors to Tonight as a guest and substitute host who was on more than 150 times.

The lanky, toothy-grinned Brenner's brand of observational comedy became a staple for other standups, including Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser. "David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing. To me, historically, he was the godfather of hip, observational comedy," comedian Richard Lewis said in a statement. But he didn't achieve the success of Seinfeld's self-titled NBC sitcom or Reiser's Mad About You, and he saw Jay Leno follow Carson as Tonight host. "I really believe that had ... Johnny Carson retired in the early '80s, then I would be sitting behind that desk," he told the AP in 1995. "I don't think there's any doubt." In a statement, his family said he left a last laugh: A final request that $100 in small bills be placed in his left sock "just in case tipping is recommended where I'm going."

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Copyright 2016 Newser, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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Showing 3 of 15 comments
sunniladi
Mar 19, 2014 5:10 AM CDT
I well remember those carson days when david was on. he stole the show. he played here in vegas often, too. great comedian, terrible loss. he'll be dearly missed.
Jena-Auerstedt
Mar 16, 2014 10:11 PM CDT
Just loved the guy -- I remember some of his routines about pranks he and his friends would play when he was a kid, or about people he met in life, and they still make me laugh, 40 years later. Thanks for the laughter and the memories, David.
Antagonist
Mar 16, 2014 7:01 PM CDT
RIP David, When the Tonight Show really was a Great show!