Launched to fame through "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" (NBC 1962-1992), stand-up David Brenner went onto become a staple of the talk show circuit thanks to a pioneering observational style which influenced a generation of comics. Born in Philadelphia, PA in 1936, Brenner inherited his wry sense of his humor from his father, a former vaudeville performer named Lou Murphy who gave up his showbiz career to become a rabbi. But after serving two years in the U.S. Army and graduating from his hometown's Temple University with a degree in mass communication, Brenner initially focused his talents behind the scenes, writing, producing and directing over 115 television documentaries and winning over 30 awards, including an Emmy, in the process.
But after landing his first professional stand-up gig at New York's The Improv in 1969, Brenner began switching his attention to the comedy scene and became a regular at several Greenwich Village clubs. Following a failed audition for "The Tonight Show" (NBC 1954-), Brenner subsequently scrutinized the acts that did make it to air and tailored his set accordingly, an approach which eventually paid off when its producers invited him to make his national TV debut in 1971. Brenner went onto make an astonishing 155 further appearances on the iconic show over the next forty years and also acted as guest host 75 times between 1975 and 1984.
Brenner then starred as a Cape Cod hairdresser in "Snip" (NBC 1976), a sitcom inspired by Hal Ashby's satiric "Shampoo" (1975) which was abruptly cancelled before its first episode was screened, reportedly due to the network's fears over the audience reaction to a prominent gay character. Brenner cut back on his touring workload during the '80s in order to fight a custody battle for his three sons, but kept his name in the spotlight with the comedy album Excuse Me, Are You Reading That Paper? in 1983, the first of five books, Soft Pretzels With Mustard, in the same year and a short-lived 30-minute late-night talk show, "Nightlife" (Syndication 1986), which lasted just one season.
Following a brief foray onto the big screen as a charity ball auctioneer in romantic comedy "Worth Winning" (1989), Brenner continued to frequent the talk show circuit, racking up multiple appearances on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS 1993- ), "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (NBC 1993-2009) and "The Howard Stern Show" (Syndication 1986- ). After achieving impressive ratings for his televised Las Vegas special "David Brenner: Back With A Vengeance" (HBO 2000) and offering his own take on the world's most famous dirty joke in documentary "The Aristocrats" (2005), Brenner also became a regular commentator on current events for various MSNBC, Fox News Channel and CNN shows. In 2014, Brenner died at his Manhattan home following a battle with cancer, aged 78.
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Special Thanks (Special)
Makes national TV debut on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" (CBS, 1962-1992)
Releases comedy album, <i>Excuse Me, Are You Reading That Paper?</i>
Lands short-lived chat show, "Nightlife" (Syndication, 1986)
Records special "David Brenner: Back With A Vengeance" (HBO, 2000)