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Sunday, March 16, 2014 - 9:30am

David Brenner Dies; The Comedian Was 78

Updated: 3 years ago.
Comedian David Brenner, a staple of TV in the 1970s and 80s, has died at age 78. He's seen here hosting his Nightlife show, with musician Frank Zappa, center, and his children, Dweezil, left, and Moon Unit.

Comedian David Brenner has died at age 78. A favorite guest of Johnny Carson's on the Tonight Show in the 1970s and '80s, the lanky comedian was famous for balancing his wry jokes with a toothy smile. Brenner had been battling cancer.

When he introduced Brenner as a guest for the first time, Carson described him this way: "He's very clever. Somewhat warped. Which is if you're going to do comedy, you should be a little bit warped, I think."

Brenner then opened his act by accusing the state of New Jersey of working to get him lost on its roads by moving the same seven people and nine trees along the highway.

NPR's Sam Sanders reports for our Newscast unit:

"David Brenner made more than 150 appearances on the Tonight Show. He was one of the pioneers of observational comedy, making fun of everyday things like prescription drug ads on TV:

" 'Here are the side effects: dry mouth, insomnia, diarrhea and sexual problems. Now, of course you're gonna have sexual problems if you have dry mouth and diarrhea.'

"His former publicist and friend Jeff Abraham says Brenner was one of the biggest comedians of his time: 'At one time he was considered the most popular guest of all talk shows. So he was really the people's comedian. Never too hip for the room.'

"Brenner grew up in Philadelphia. Before comedy, he wrote, produced and directed documentaries."

In 2011, Brenner married former figure skater Tai Babilonia. He is also survived by three children from two previous marriages.

According to NBC, Brenner's last request was that $100 in small bills would be placed in his left sock "just in case tipping is recommended where I'm going."

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