‘Tonight Show’ favorite David Brenner dies at 78

Story highlights

David Brenner appeared 158 times on Johnny Carson's late-night show

Brenner started out in television documentaries

"Knowing David, he's now making the devil laugh," Joan Rivers tweets

CNN  — 

Comedian David Brenner, a regular on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show,” has died after a battle with cancer, a family spokesman said Saturday. He was 78.

Brenner was a staple on Carson’s late-night show, appearing more times than any other guest – 158, according to a bio on his official website.

Before getting into comedy, Brenner helped write, produce and direct 115 TV documentaries, earning him nearly 30 awards.

Brenner also was the author of five books – his latest published in 2003, “I Think There’s a Terrorist in My Soup.”

Even in death, he kept the jokes coming. Brenner’s final request, according to family spokesman Jeff Abraham, was to have $100 in small bills tucked in his sock – “just in case tipping is recommended where I’m going.”

His gravesite will read: “If this is supposed to be a joke – then I don’t get it!,” according to Abraham.

Comedian Joan Rivers, a longtime friend of Brenner’s, tweeted about the news of his passing Saturday.

“RIP David Brenner. I adored him, and laughed more with him than anybody. Sad, sad, sad. Knowing David, he’s now making the devil laugh,” read Rivers’ tweet.

Brenner is survived by his wife, three sons and a grandson.

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CNN’s Mara Raphael contributed to this report.