(NEW YORK) — David Brenner, a comedian who appeared on The Tonight Show more often than any other guest, has died, ABC News Radio has confirmed. He was 78.
Brenner died in New York City surrounded by his children, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. He made his national TV debut on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1971, and went on to set the record for the most appearances on that show: 158. In addition, he hosted the show 75 times. The author of five books, he was a regular headliner in Las Vegas, and a frequent guest on every other major talk show. He played himself in a 2010 episode of ABC’s Modern Family.
Fellow comedian Richard Lewis told ABC News that Brenner was a huge influence in his life.
“Losing David Brenner and knowing that he’s not around or be able to call him is probably I can easily say the greatest loss of anyone I’ve ever known in my 66 years,” Lewis said.
Brenner was considered to be a pioneer of what is commonly called “observational humor;” he once described it as “dumb things that we say or do.”
“He was not only I think the godfather of that school of comedy — of being not just observational which a lot of comics are, but having sort of a warped twist to his observations,” Lewis said. “But he was so confident.”
According to the Hollywood Reporter, he is survived by his three children, as well as his current wife, Ruth, and a grandson, Wesley. His publicist told the Hollywood Reporter that Brenner’s final request was that “$100 in small bills be placed in his left sock, ‘just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going.'”
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Frank Pallotta, CNN
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Communications