David Brenner (David Norris Brenner)

David Brenner

David Brenner

Brenner was a writer, director or producer of 115 television documentaries and headed the documentary units of Westinghouse Broadcasting and Metromedia, winning nearly 30 awards including an Emmy, before moving to comedy. His first paid gig was at The Improv in June 1969, and following that he frequently performed at clubs in Greenwich Village.[1] After making his national television debut in 1971, on The Tonight Show, he became the show’s most frequent guest, with 158 appearances. He guest-hosted for Johnny Carson 75 times between 1975 and 1984, placing him fifth on the list of Carson’s most frequent guest hosts. Brenner was ranked No. 53 on Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. “At one point, he had appeared more often on major TV talk shows than any other entertainer. He also wrote five books, and starred in four HBO Specials.

Brenner released the comedy album Excuse Me, Are You Reading That Paper? on MCA Records in 1983 (The title arose from a gag wherein a fellow passenger on a conveyence asked Brenner if he was reading a newspaper on which he was sitting. The punch line was Brenner saying he was, standing up, turning a page, and sitting down again.) Brenner also penned five books including Soft Pretzels With Mustard (1983), Revenge is the Best Exercise (1984), Nobody Ever Sees You Eat Tuna Fish (1986), If God Wanted Us to Travel… (1990), and I Think There’s a Terrorist in My Soup: How to Survive Personal and World Problems with Laughter—Seriously (2003) which was also released as two audiobooks.

Brenner was the star of the 1976 TV series Snip (alternative title: Flip), which was inspired by the film Shampoo and set in a hair dressing salon. The situation comedy was cancelled by NBC before it aired due to its inclusion in the supporting cast of what would have been one of the first gay characters in an American situation comedy. He also played a charity ball auctioneer in the 1989 romantic comedy Worth Winning (with Mark Harmon, Madeleine Stowe, and Lesley Ann Warren, who was also Brenner’s co-star on Snip).[citation needed]

In 1986, King World Entertainment gave Brenner his own 30-minute syndicated late-night talk show, Nightlife, in an attempt to compete with Carson, but it was cancelled after one season. The show premiered September 8, 1986, on 102 stations and was touted as “alternative“. Filmed in Manhattan and featuring a casually dressed Brenner, it was unique among the late night talk genre for not having a monologue. It gave some comedians, such as Bobby Slayton, their national television premieres.

In addition to the Tonight Show, Brenner also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The David Frost Show, The Mike Douglas Show, Late Night and the Late Show With David Letterman, Real Time With Bill Maher and The Daily Show and was a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show. In later years he appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News Channel shows commenting on current events.

The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia named Brenner their Person of the Year in 1984 and inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2003.[citation needed] Brenner hosted a talk-radio program, taking over the timeslot of the Larry King Show in 1994. Westwood One broadcast his show until 1996. He had earlier hosted a syndicated radio show, “David Brenner Live”, in 1985.

His friend, Richard Lewis, described Brenner as “the king of hip, observational comedy.”


  • February, 04, 1936
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


  • March, 15, 2014
  • Manhattan, New York

Cause of Death

  • Cancer


  • Unknown

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