LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Carl Reiner, a driving force behind American comedy as a writer for television pioneer Sid Caesar, partner of Mel Brooks and creator and co-star of the classic sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show “, died at age 98.
“He died last night at the age of 98 from natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills,” Reiner’s assistant Judy Nagy told Reuters on Tuesday.
Reiner’s career spanned seven decades and spanned all medium, from theater and recordings to television and film, including directing âOh, God! â, Three collaborations with Steve Martin and a role of elderly con artist in the relaunched seriesâ Ocean’s Eleven â.
He still played voice roles in his 90s and played a key role in “If You’re Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast,” a documentary about people who stay busy until age 90. .
Reiner is survived by three children, including Rob Reiner, director of several blockbuster films and known for playing Archie Bunker’s son-in-law “Meathead” in the hit television comedy “All in the Family”. Reiner’s 64-year-old wife Estelle died in 2008.
In recent years, Reiner has often joked that he gets up every morning, checks obituaries and if he’s not, he eats breakfast.
Reiner was active on Twitter. His latest tweet praised British playwright and composer Noel Coward.
âNoel Coward was the most prolific author of musicals, plays, songs and films,â Reiner wrote. âHe also found time to criticize the performances with points such as’ They were like two paper bags fighting against each other. “
Reiner expressed his approach to his work in his book “My Anecdotal Life,” when he said, “Getting people to laugh at you while you’re laughing at yourself is a good thing to do. You are maybe the fool, but you are the fool in charge.
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Reiner, the son of a Bronx-born watchmaker, started out in entertainment as a teenager in a touring theater group that performed Shakespeare’s plays. But his career took a decisive turn after joining the Army Signal Corps during World War II.
Recruited into a special unit that showed shows for the troops, Reiner began writing and performing his own comedy material.
Returning to New York City after the war, Reiner appeared in several Broadway musicals, including a starring role in âCall Me Mister,â before being hired to join Caesar’s popular TV comedy series âYour Show of Shows “in the 1950s.
Reiner was part of Caesar’s performer ensemble as well as a famous team of writers that included then-unknown talents like Brooks, Neil Simon, and Larry Gelbart.
Reiner and Brooks stayed close to the late ’90s with Reiner telling USA Today in 2019 that they got together regularly to watch game shows and movies.
Brooks joined Reiner in the creation of the routine “A 2000 Year Old Man” in which Reiner interviewed the world’s oldest living man, played by Brooks, who tells satirical first-person anecdotes in history with a strong Jewish accent.
2000 year old straight man
When asked why the cross became a symbol of Christianity, for example, Brooks replied, âIt was easier to put together than the Star of David. “
Originally ad-released by Reiner and Brooks at a party, the sketch has become a perennial TV favorite and the basis of five comedy albums, the last of which won a 1998 Grammy Award.
When âYour Show of Showsâ ended its 4.5-year run in 1954, Reiner followed Caesar to his next series, âCaesar’s Hour,â and won his first two Emmy Awards.
Encouraged by his wife to develop a TV show like his own, Reiner began working on a sitcom pilot loosely based on his experiences with Caesar’s shows, titled “Head of the Family,” posing as a TV screenwriter with a wife and two children. .
Network executives initially passed on the project, unhappy with Reiner as the main character, Rob Petrie. But CBS eventually picked up the series in 1961, after its redesign and title change to its new star, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.
Reiner, who won multiple Emmys writing and producing the hit series, played the recurring role of Petrie’s boss, the wayward variety show host Alan Brady.
A retaliation for his role as Alan Brady three decades later, for a guest spot on the 1990s sitcom “Mad About You,” earned Reiner another Emmy.
In addition to helping turn its creator and star into household names, âThe Dick Van Dyke Showâ launched the career of Mary Tyler Moore, who played Rob Petrie’s wife. The series, considered a TV sitcom classic, ended in 1966.
The following year, Reiner made his directorial and feature film producer debut with “Enter Laughing”, which he adapted from a play by Joseph Stein based on Reiner’s 1958 semi-autobiographical book by the same. name.
He went on to direct George Burns in the title role of the 1977 comedy “Oh My God!” before collaborating with Steve Martin on a series of films, including “The Jerk”, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Man with Two Brains”.
From 2001, he made a comeback to the big screen playing old con man Saul Bloom, who is coming out of retirement to join George Clooney, Brad Pitt and others in the hit remake of the 1960s heist film ” Ocean’s Eleven “. Reiner returned to this role in two “Ocean” sequels.
But Reiner never strayed from television, continuing to make appearances on various shows such as âTwo and a Half Menâ and âHot in Clevelandâ until his 90s, while keeping a busy Twitter account.
Reiner has written four volumes of memoirs, including âI Just Rememberedâ in 2014, as well as children’s books.