David Norris Brenner was a comedian, actor, and author from the United States who is known for being a pioneer of observational humor. Born and bred in an impoverished Philadelphia area, comedy became a big form of escape from the problems he endured as a child. He got his first salaried job at The Improv after majoring in mass communication. Later, he made his television debut on Johnny Carson’s ‘The Tonight Show,’ where he went on to become the show’s most frequent guest, with over 158 appearances, not counting the times he was the guest host. Before turning to comedy, he wrote, directed, or produced 115 television documentaries, receiving numerous honors, including an Emmy. When he started working in New York comedy clubs in the late 1960s, he was over 30 and a successful documentary writer, producer, and director. In the early 1970s, his sarcastic brand of observational humor made him a stand-up comedy celebrity, and he remained in the public spotlight for the next four decades. He was one of the most popular comedians of his generation, carving out a niche for himself in the entertainment industry and in the hearts of millions.
Childhood and Adolescence
Louis Yehuda Brenner, a vaudeville comedian, and his wife, Estelle Anne Rosenfeld, gave birth to him on February 4, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.
His parents were members of the Jewish community, and he grew up in the slums of South and West Philadelphia.
He enlisted in the United States Army after graduating from high school and served in the 101st Airborne Division. He also served in the 595th Signal Corps as a cryptographer in Böblingen, Germany.
He enrolled in Temple University after being discharged from the army, where he majored in mass communication and finished with honors.
Career of Brenner
He got his first paid job at The Improv in June 1969. He began performing regularly in Greenwich Village clubs after that.
He made his national television debut in 1971 on NBC’s ‘The Tonight Show,’ an American late-night talk show. He has since been the show’s most regular guest, having made a total of 158 appearances.
Between 1975 and 1984, he appeared on ‘The Tonight Show’ 75 times as a guest host with Johnny Carson. He also appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ ‘The David Frost Show,’ ‘The Mike Douglas Show,’ and ‘The Daily Show,’ in addition to ‘The Tonight Show.’
In 1976, he was cast as the lead in the television series ‘Snip,’ which was based on the film ‘Shampoo’ and was set in a hair salon. However, NBC cancelled the comedy series before it premiered due to its inclusion in the supporting cast of one of the first gay characters in an American situation comedy.
On MCA Records in 1983, he released the comedy album ‘Excuse Me, Are You Reading That Paper?’
In 1986, King World Entertainment offered him his own 30-minute syndicated late-night discussion program, ‘Nightlife,’ which launched on September 8, 1986, on 102 stations. However, after one season, the show was canceled.
In 1989, he starred alongside Mark Harmon, Madeleine Stowe, and Lesley Ann Warren in the romantic comedy ‘Worth Winning,’ in which he played a charity ball auctioneer. In the same year, he starred in his own Broadway one-man show, ‘The Laughs and Times of David Brenner.’
He appeared in the television movie ‘David Brenner: Back with a Vengeance!’ in 2000. In the 2005 documentary ‘The Aristocrats,’ he was one of the featured celebrities.
‘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).
Achievements & Awards
The ‘Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia’ awarded him the title of ‘Person of the Year’ in 1984. He was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2003.
On Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comics of All Time, he was placed #53.
Personal History and Legacy
He was in a relationship with Charisse Brody from 1980 to 1983, and they had a son, Cole Jay, in 1982. Following their breakup, they struggled for Cole’s custody for several years, which he obtained in 1992.
In the last minutes of his ‘Live from The Venetian Hotel HBO Special’ broadcast in Las Vegas on February 19, 2000, he married Elizabeth Slater of New York. Slade and Wyatt, the couple’s two kids, were born to them. They then divorced and battled two custody fights, which he won both times.
He wedded Tai Babilonia, a former American pair skater, in 2005, but they never married.
He married Ruth on March 7, 2011. The couple didn’t have any kids of their own.
He died of cancer on March 15, 2014, at the age of 78, in his Manhattan residence in New York City, United States.
Estimated Net Worth
Brenner David $9 million in net worth
David Brenner’s net worth is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.