David Brenner, a longtime standup comedian whose observational humor is credited with inspiring many top comics, has died. Brenner, a Philadelphia native, died at his home in New York City on Saturday after battling cancer. He was 78.
A favorite of Johnny Carson, Brenner appeared on The Tonight Show more than 150 times — reported to be a record — starting in the 1970s. The former documentary filmmaker was a regular on TV talk shows and starred in four HBO specials.
“David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing,” comedian Richard Lewis said in a statement. “To me, historically, he was the godfather of hip, observational comedy. He mentored me from day one.”
Lewis added, “His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”
Several of his uncles became rabbis, but Brenner told the Philadelphia Jewish Voice in 2008 that “I never had the calling.”
Brenner was performing his standup routine regularly as late as last year.
“David was one of the most respected and liked comedians by his peers,” said Jeff Abraham, his friend and former publicist. “He was always there helping a bright young comedian, whether it be Richard Lewis, Freddie Prinze or Jimmie Walker, and he was still doing it until the very end.”
— JTA News and Features