David Brenner’s Tonight Show debut, Jan. 8, 1971. He would go on to become Carson’s most frequent guest, with more than 150 appearances.
NEW YORK TIMES: David Brenner was born on Feb. 4, 1936, in Philadelphia, the son of Lou and Estelle Brenner. His father was a former vaudevillian who he said had several jobs — not all of them legal — and was one of the funniest people he knew. Mr. Brenner served in the Army and graduated from Temple University with a degree in communications before beginning his career as a documentarian. Tall and skinny, with a toothy grin and a memorably nasal delivery, Mr. Brenner became a comedian relatively late in life. He was over 30 and a successful writer, producer and director of documentary films when he began working in New York comedy clubs in the late ’60s. Stardom came quickly. On Jan. 8, 1971, he made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” at the time the goal of every working comic. He went on to become one of the show’s most frequent guests, making more than 150 appearances, about half of them as substitute host. In an interview in December on “CBS This Morning,” Mr. Brenner recalled that Carson once explained why he was asked so frequently to perform stand-up on the show, as opposed to sitting on the couch for an interview: “He said, ‘Because I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes.’” MORE