David Brenner Left Behind Girlfriend Tai Babilonia and Three Sons: 'Tonight Show' Favorite Dies of Cancer at 78

( [email protected] ) Mar 15, 2014 09:25 PM EDT
(Photo : David Brenner and former champion pairs skater Tai Babilonia, 54.)

David Brenner, who delivered his observational style of stand-up comedy on TV and holds the record of the most "Tonight Show" guest apperances, died Saturday. He was 78.

Brenner, who had been fighting cancer, died peacefully at his home in New York City with his family at his side, according to Jeff Abraham, his friend and publicist.

"David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing. To me, historically, he was the godfather of hip, observational comedy," comedian Richard Lewis said in a statement. "He mentored me from day one. ... His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced."

David Brenner was born on Feb. 4, 1936, in Philadelphia. He graduated from Temple University with a communications degree. Brenner shot to fame in 1971 after becoming a late-night TV favorite.

His father, Louis, was a vaudeville singer, dancer and comedian who performed as "Lou Murphy," and Brenner always said he was the funniest man he ever met.

He gained fame by telling anecdotes about daily life, or as he said, "the dumb things that we say and do." Over the years, as he continued to perform stand-up and began appearing on television shows on Fox News, his comedy focused more on current events.

His family said in a statement on Saturday, "In David's final request he asked that one hundred dollars in small bills be placed in his left sock 'just in case tipping is recommended where I'm going.' "

Brenner was married to actress Elizabeth Slater in the closing minutes of his Live from The Venetian Hotel show in Las Vegas, Nevada HBO Special. But after a year they split. The couple have two sons Slade and Wyatt while he also had another son Cole with an ex-girlfriend.

He was engaged to Tai Babilonia, a former pairs figure skater since 2011. Babilonia, 54, is the 1979 World champion and a five-time (1976-1980) U.S. national champion. With her skating partner Randy Gardner, the pair qualified for the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

Watch Brenner's debut on Tonight show below: