David Brenner, Comedian and Johnny Carson Favorite, Dead at 78

David Brenner, Comedian and Johnny Carson Favorite, Dead at 78

Brenner died of cancer at his home in New York City

David Brenner, a prominent stand-up comedian and regular guest of Johnny Carson's on “The Tonight Show,” died of cancer Saturday afternoon in his New York City home surrounded by his family, according to spokesperson Jeff Abraham. He was 78.

Brenner began his career as a writer, producer and director of documentaries, putting more than 100 on the air. Yet he eventually realized “you don't change the world by doing documentaries,” according to a recent “CBS This Morning” profile.

He decided to try comedy for a year, and, shortly before that year was up, his agent brought the top booker for “The Tonight Show” to see Brenner in Greenwich Village.

“He saw me and what he said was ‘David Brenner does vomit material,” Brenner recalled. “‘Not only won't he be on ‘Tonight Show,’ we won't let him in the building at 30 Rockefeller.'”

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That lit a fire under Brenner, who prepared a monologue better suited to Carson's show and auditioned. He booked a gig, and his appearance elicited immediate requests for more. He appeared more than 150 times on “Tonight Show” as a guest and substitute host. He also appeared on other talk shows and game shows before hosting his own show for a year.

“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,” according to a statement issued by Abraham. “His final resting spot will read “If this is supposed to be a joke – then I don't get it!”

Also read: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2014 (Photos)

Brenner is survived by his wife Ruth; his three sons, Cole, Wyatt and Slade; his grandson, Wesley.

Watch the full CBS profile below and his first “Tonight Show” appearance below that.

  • ziggiepop

    RIP Mr. Brenner. Thank you for the laughs!

  • Trish Chasity

    David Brenner I thought you were funny always! RIP

  • Clay Marston

    ONE OF THE TRUE ORIGINAL GREATS ON LATE NIGHT TV – COLONEL77

  • Linda Quick

    My prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace. So sad.

  • Jim

    He was all comedy. I was a fan of his for years!

    He reminds me of the good years when comedy routines were actually funny.

  • dannyjude63

    I remember watching a David Brenner comedy special on HBO when I was a kid with my family. We were all hysterical laughing. He was such a funny man. A great loss.