LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Other veteran comics could head straight to "The Tonight Show" couch to banter with Johnny Carson, but David Brenner had to do a stand-up routine when he was a guest.
Finally, Carson told a puzzled Brenner why.
"I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes," Brenner, in a 2013 interview with CBS, recalled him saying.
Carson's regard for Brenner, who died in his New York City home Saturday at age 78 after battling cancer, made him one of the most frequent visitors to "Tonight" as a guest and substitute host who was on more than 150 times.
The lanky, always sharply dressed Brenner also briefly hosted his own syndicated talk show in 1987 and starred in four HBO specials.
Brenner moved with the times, trading routines about the humor of everyday life for jokes about social and political issues, and appearing on MSNBC and Fox News Channel cable programs.
Brenner, who was raised in working-class south Philadelphia and graduated with honors from Temple University, was "always there helping a bright young comedian, whether it be Richard Lewis, Freddie Prinze or Jimmie Walker, and he was still doing it until the very end," said his friend and publicist, Jeff Abraham.
His career soared after his first appearance in January 1971. He went from being nearly broke to overwhelmed by a then-hefty $10,000 in job offers the day after he was on the show.
"I never thought this was going to turn my life upside down and give me my whole future," he told "This Morning."
In a statement, his family said he left a last laugh: A final request that $100 in small bills be placed in his left sock "just in case tipping is recommended where I'm going."
Besides son Cole, Brenner is survived by his wife, Ruth, sons Wyatt and Slade and a grandson, Wesley, according to a statement from the family.