We’ve lost a comedy legend. Carl Reiner has passed away at the age of 98.
Born and raised in The Bronx, Carl Reiner had a career that spanned 8 decades. Having served in the Army Air Force in World War II from 1943 until 1946, upon returning home he went right to work in the theater. He performed in numerous musicals on Broadway until 1950, when he was cast on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. In addition to being featured alongside Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, he was also in what is considered the greatest writer’s room of all time. This room also included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Max Liebman, Lucielle Kellan, Danny Simon, and Caesar.
Following Your Show of Show’s, Reiner followed Cesar when he did Caesar’s Hour, reuniting a lot of the same writing staff but adding in Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart. That series ran from 1954 to 1957.
In 1959, Reiner developed a pilot called Head of The Family. While the pilot was not picked up, Executive Producer Sheldon Leonard encouraged Reiner to rewrite the series for someone else. That somebody else was Dick Van Dyke and he created The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1960. That series, which saw Van Dyke working as a comedy writer for the fictional The Alan Brady Show, is still today regarded one of the greatest sitcoms in television history. The series also assembled a terrific cast that included Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie, Richard Deacon, and Reiner himself playing Alan Brady.
Following the series, Reiner made the transition to movies when he adapted his semi-autobiographical book Enter Laughing into a film, which also marked his directorial debut. Following Enter Laughing, he continued to write and direct the films The Comic, Where’s Poppa?, Oh God!, The One and Only, The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains, All of Me, Summer Rental, Summer School, Bert Rigby, You’re A Fool, Sibling Rivalry, Fatal Instinct, and That Old Feeling.
As an actor in film, he had also made appearances in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Jerk, Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 13, and most recently last year’s Toy Story 4. On television, he guest-starred in Mad About You (for which he won his 12th Emmy), Frasier, The Larry Sanders Show, The Bernie Mac Show, Two and a Half Men, Hot in Cleveland, Parks and Recreation, Family Guy, and Angie Tribeca, among countless others.
As an author, he remained prolific all the way until the end. He had written memoirs, retrospectives, and novels throughout his entire decade. One of his more humorous books was a very detailed picture book in which he shared the stretches that he did when he got up every morning. And as recently as yesterday, Carl Reiner often took to Twitter to share his thoughts about his every day life, including the issues he had with the current administration.
Perhaps most die-hard comedy fans remember Reiner for his onstage partnership (and 70 year friendship) with Mel Brooks. Together, they formed The 2000 Year-Old Man. This was something that they had started doing at parties, before Steve Allen insisted that they perform the bit on The Steve Allen Show. They did in 1960, and went on to produce many records and make appearances as the characters. Carl would be the straight man to Mel’s 2000 Year-Old Man. Carl would feed him questions and let Mel Brooks just run with it.
But it’s safe to say that without Carl Reiner, there is no 2000 Year-Old Man, nor is there a Your Show of Shows or The Dick Van Dyke Show or The Jerk. Nor would there be all the shows that were influenced and inspired by them, Saturday Night Live included.
Reiner is survived by his daughter Annie, his sons Rob and Lucas, his grandchildren, and his nephew/manager, George Shapiro.
We were lucky enough to get to interview Mr. Reiner for the site back in 2018, which you can find here. Below are some more highlights from the comedy legend.