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Philadelphia favorite David Brenner dead at 78

Tipping the ferryman with loose change
Tipping the ferryman with loose change
Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Comedian David Brenner, a staple on The Tonight Show under Johnny Carson, is dead at 78 after battling cancer.

Brenner gained national recognition from his frequent appearances on NBC’s signature talk show. The comic claims he filled 158 segments, doing stand up routines that were often observational and regional in nature. Edgy and urban, but veering away from harsh or angry material, Brenner was a friend to Joan Rivers, another Carson regular, and influenced later funny men, like Richard Lewis and Jerry Seinfeld.

In discussing a protracted custody battle over his son Cole, Brenner was asked if he had any regrets about the need to curtail his visibility during that period. “How could I not do it?” Brenner asks. “Besides, I come from the slums in Philadelphia and everything in my life is profit. My downside is what most people would strive a lifetime to get to.”

Though his celebrity faded in the 90’s, Brenner continued to work the clubs steadily, including the Las Vegas strip, and after 9/11 he authored a book on humor.

In addition to his son Cole, Brenner is survived by wife Ruth and two other children.