By Oliver Gettell
Updated December 08, 2016 at 04:54 AM EST

Adrianne Tolsch, the groundbreaking comedienne who headlined venues across the U.S. and for years mentored striving comics as the emcee of the New York club Catch a Rising Star, died Wednesday of esophageal cancer at her home in Manhattan. She was 78.

Her husband, Bill Scheft, a longtime writer for The Late Show With David Letterman, confirmed the news to EW.

A Brooklyn native, Tolsch came up in the New York stand-up scene in the 1970s and would go on to perform throughout the country and abroad. She opened for acts including Jay Leno, the Pointer Sisters, Bobby Vinton, Pat Cooper, and Billy Crystal.

Though she was something of a pioneer as a female comic in a male-dominated field, and though she helped many women and men break into comedy, Tolsch didn’t dwell on those accomplishments, Scheft said.

“I think that she was a little proud of it, but it was mostly about the work,” he said. “She was someone that [believed] funny is funny is funny. She was a typical comic.”

Her peers were more than willing to sing her praises, however. Quoting their good friend and fellow comedian Larry Amoros, Scheft said of Tolsch, “People talk about glass ceilings. You know, she just kicked the s‑‑‑ out of it because she was as funny as anybody.”

Scheft also remembered his wife as someone who was “just fiercely funny and fiercely smart. She was my best quality.”

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