March 1, 2024

Hank Bradford, head writer for “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers,” died Jan. 18 in Los Angeles, his family said. He was 88 and the cause was congestive heart failure.

Bradford served as Carson’s head writer between 1970 and 1975.

“As head writer on The Tonight Show, he was admired and beloved by his fellow writers for both his pitch-perfect sense of humor and his relatively-sane leadership style in a job (and profession) which tended toward the weird and chaotic,” Bradford’s family said in a prepared obituary. “Above his desk at The Tonight Show was a sign that read: ‘It left here funny.’”

Bradford later served as head writer for “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” between 1986 and 1987. He also wrote episodes for “MASH” and “Three’s Company.”

Before becoming a staff writer, Bradford began his career as a comic. He appeared at nightclubs and opened the show for such acts as Simon & Garfunkel and the Temptations.

Bradford is survived by wife Patricia Bradford; daughters Stephanie Brenowitz and Sally Bradford McKenna; sons Matt Bohm and William McLaughlin; and five grandchildren.

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