Comedian and ‘Tonight Show’ favorite David Brenner dies at 78

Comedian David Brenner dies
David Brenner performs at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in 1980. The comedian died of cancer Saturday at his home in New York. He was 78.
(European Pressphoto Agency)

Comedian David Brenner, a record-setting “Tonight Show” guest with his wry and observational brand of comedy, died Saturday at the age of 78.

The Philadelphia stand-up comic, who had been battling cancer, died at his home in New York City with his family by his side, according to friend and publicist Jeff Abraham.

A former documentary filmmaker, Brenner’s stand-up routines were revered by “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson, culminating in a record of more than 150 appearances on the late night stage.

PHOTOS: Comedian David Brenner


He was a frequent guest on game shows and talk shows throughout his career. And long before Chris Rock and Dennis Miller were getting HBO specials, Brenner had four of his own -- even getting married on one. In 1987, he briefly hosted his own syndicated talk show.

As the times changed, so, too, did the focus of Brenner’s comedy. Material on garden-variety life troubles eventually gave way to social and political issues.

And even at 78, he was keeping busy with stand-up. He had a four-day gig in December at Valley Forge Casino Resort in his home state, according to appearances listed on his website.

Fellow comic Richard Lewis took to Twitter to remember Brenner. “Brenner was a star. The king of ‘hip, observational comedy,’” Lewis wrote.” He was family. This leaves an irreplaceable hole.”


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Those who visit the comedian’s website are greeted with a parody announcement that states Brenner suffered a sex-related injury, before scrolling to a statement of his passing further down.

Looking to get in one final joke, the statement read:

“In David’s final request he asked that one hundred dollars in small bills be placed in his left sock ‘just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going.’ His final resting spot will read ‘If this is supposed to be a joke -- then I don’t get it!’ "