Veteran comedian David Brenner has died. A notice on www.davidbrennersite.com reads as follows:
Official Family Announcement
Legendary stand-up comedian and long time Tonight Show favorite, David Brenner, passed away at the age of 78 after a courageous battle with his final dragon, cancer.
Brenner died peacefully at his home in NYC surrounded by his family at his side. He is survived by his wife, Ruth, his three sons, Cole, Wyatt and Slade, and his grandson, Wesley.
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 allowed where I’m going.” His final resting spot will read: If this is supposed to be a joke – then I don’t get it!”
The statement was posted by Brenner’s publicist, Jeff Abraham.
Michael Caine, Sean Connery, David Brenner and Johnny Carson
The thin, toothy comic made as many as 158 appearances as a guest and substitute host on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” starting in the 1970s. He was considered the father of observational comedy, a form of humor that relied on impromptu quips rather than canned jokes. Brenner is credited with inspiring countless comedians, including Richard Lewis. “David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing,” Lewis said. “To me, historically, he was the godfather of ‘hip, observational comedy.’ He mentored me from Day 1. He was family to me in the deepest, most supportive sense. His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.” Comedian Jimmie Walker issued a statement that said Brenner was “a true comic genius” who was “my mentor and taught me about life and comedy.”
An article on AP.com relates the following story:
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.
Born and raised in south Philadelphia, Brenner shot to fame after his late-night TV favorite. His “Tonight” exposure turned the former documentary filmmaker into a hot comedian. Brenner was a regular on other TV talk shows and game shows and starred in four HBO comedy specials. He also briefly hosted his own syndicated talk show in 1987.
In a 2000 interview with The Associated Press, was that he put family before fame. He said that a long custody battle with a girlfriend over their son, Cole, forced him to limit his TV appearances and visibility beginning in the mid-1980s, when Brenner was living in Aspen, Colorado. “In a nutshell, I couldn’t work more than 50 nights a year (out of town) or I’d be an absentee father,” he said. “That was when they were giving out the talk shows, the sitcoms.” He was asked if he regretted his decision. “I didn’t even make a decision. I didn’t even think about it. How could you not do it? I don’t mean to sound noble,” Brenner said. “Besides, I come from the slums of Philadelphia and everything in my life is profit. My downside is what most people would strive a lifetime to get to.” He won the custody battle in 1992.
Tai Babilonia and David Brenner at an amFAR benefit in New York CIty on January 31, 2007.
Brenner was engaged to former pairs figure skater Tai Babilonia, but they never married. A fixture in Las Vegas, Brenner continued doing standup across the country well into his 70s.