David Brenner was a comedy giant. He was the godfather of observational comedy, changing the way comedians perform on stage, and on television. It was his first appearance on The Tonight Show on January 8, 1971 that changed his life, and he would go on to become Carson’s most frequent guest with a record 158 appearances. You simply couldn’t write a book on comedy without including a chapter on David Brenner. Comedian Gary Gulman counts David Brenner as his inspiration in comedy, and so we asked him to share some thoughts on his love for the great comedian.
The “Never meet your heroes” axiom disintegrated for me in October of 1998 at The Ice House in Pasadena when I met David Brenner for the first time. Growing up he was my first and favorite comedian. I had worshipped him and his comedy since I was in Kindergarten and I met him that night and he exceeded all expectations. He was funny on and off stage and warm and kind and generous! Boy was he GENEROUS. With his time, his money, his knowledge, his wisdom, his stories, his laughter and his prodigious talent. I’ve heard that again and again from comedians and his friends, if he liked you there was virtually nothing he would withhold.
A few months later David hosted Letterman and asked me on as a standup and a panel guest and it would have been a dream come true had I ever had the audacity to dream something so obnoxious. He took me for breakfast before the show and brought me a bottle of champagne after. He took pictures with my parents providing our family with a lasting beautiful memory. I loved him, first on TV then in life. It’s grossly unjust that this beautiful man and lover of life had his cut short but the memories and deeds he spread throughout his career will surely endure. Rest in peace Legend.
More on David Brenner. Brenner’s passing so strongly impacted SiriusXM host Ron Bennington, that he was inspired to go on air the night Brenner died, to pay tribute to the legend. Read more about that tribute here. Listen to Bennington’s 2008 hour long remarkable interview with Brenner here, and read excerpts here. Hear Gary Gulman talk about why Brenner was the comedian who changed his life, recorded shortly before Brenner’s death.