LOS ANGELES: David Brenner, the gangly, toothy-grinned Tonight Show favorite whose brand of observational comedy became a staple for other stand-up comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser, died Saturday. He was 78.
Brenner, who had been fighting cancer, died peacefully at his home in New York City with his family at his side, publicist Jeff Abraham said.
“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,” said comedian Richard Lewis. “He mentored me from day one. ... His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”
Brenner’s stand-up routines became a favorite of Tonight Show host Johnny Carson starting in the 1970s.
His 150-plus Tonight Show appearances 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.
He moved with the times, trading routines about the humor of everyday life for jokes about social and political issues. He appeared on MSNBC and Fox News Channel programs as well as talk shows.
Brenner worked steadily through 2013 doing stand-up. A four-day gig in December included a New Year’s Eve show in King of Prussia, Pa., during which he showcased young comedians.