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BY STEVE GORMAN
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”, has died at the age 98, Variety reported on Tuesday.
Reiner died Monday night of natural causes at his Beverly Hills, Calif., Home, the entertainment outlet reported, citing the legendary comedian’s assistant Judy Nagy.
Reiner’s career spanned seven decades and spanned all mediums, from theater and recordings to television and film, including directing “Oh, God! », Three collaborations with Steve Martin and a role of elderly con artist in the relaunched series« Ocean’s Eleven ».
He still played voice roles in his 90s and had a key role in “If You’re Not In The Obit, Eat Breakfast,” a documentary about people who stay busy until the age of 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 wife of 64 years, Estelle, died in 2008.
Reiner expressed his approach to his work in his book “My Anecdotal Life,” when he said, “Inviting 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.
Reiner, the son of a Bronx-born watchmaker, began 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 “Call Me Mister,” before being hired to join Caesar’s popular comedy television series “Your 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 about the story with a strong Jewish accent.
2000 year old straight man
When asked why the cross became a symbol of Christianity, for example, Brooks replied, “It was easier to put together than the Star of David. “
Originally improvised by Reiner and Brooks at a party, the sketch became a television favorite and the basis of five comedy albums, the last of which won a Grammy Award in 1998.
When “Your Show of Shows” ended its 4.5-year run in 1954, Reiner followed Caesar to his next series, “Caesar’s Hour,” 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, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” 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-length 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 then directed 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 on 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 “Two and a Half Men” and “Hot in Cleveland” until his 90s, while keeping a busy Twitter account.
Reiner has written four volumes of memoirs, including “I Just Remembered” in 2014, as well as children’s books.