David Brenner, the lanky, toothy-grinned “Tonight Show” favorite whose brand of observational comedy became a staple for other standups, 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, according to Jeff Abraham, his friend and publicist.
“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. “He mentored me from day one. … His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”
The tall, thin and always sharply dressed Brenner became one of the most frequent visitors to Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” in the 1970s and ’80s.
His 150-plus appearances as guest and substitute host turned the former documentary filmmaker into a hot comedian, one who was ubiquitous on other talk shows and game shows.