Brenner, who was a staple on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, regularly toured college campuses and starred in HBO comedy specials, always considered himself a stand-up comic.
He maintained a sense of humor to the end. Despite his struggle with cancer, he had a final request which his family released in a statement upon his death.
“In David’s final request he asked that one hundred dollars in small bills be placed in his left sock ‘just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going,'” it said.
Longtime publicist Jeff Abraham confirmed his death from cancer.
Brenner had a short-lived late night television show called “Nightlife,” starting in 1986. He went head-to-head against his mentor Carson and also went up against Joan Rivers, who had her own controversial talk show. But he became the odd man out and the show was canceled.
Later in his career he began writing books. His first “Soft Pretzels With Mustard,” was published in 1983. “I Think There’s a Terrorist in My Soup,” his final book, was published in 2003.
Brenner often joked about his hometown, Philidelphia, where he was born in 1936. He was drafted into the Army and was assigned to the the 101st Airborne Division, serving time in Germany.
After he left the army, he enrolled in Temple University and graduated with a communications degree. He worked as a writer and director of television documentaries until he turned to stand-up comedy.
He scored the first of 158 appearances–a record that still stands–on the “Tonight Show” in 1971, and it launched his career.
He kept working up through 2013, doing gigs showcasing young comedians.
Brenner is survived by three children Slade, Wyatt and Cole, and a grandson. He was married to Elizabeth Slater, 2000 to 2001; figure skater Tai Babilonia, 2005 to 2011, and current wife Ruth Brenner. He’s also survived by a grandson.