Carlton "Carl" Reiner (March 20, 1922 – June 29, 2020) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, director, producer, screenwriter, author, singer, dancer, rapper, voice artist, and comedian. One of the true pioneers of television, he has won nine Emmy Awards in writing, acting and producing categories. On House, M.D., he portrayed Eugene Schwartz, the clinic patient who was the innocent bystander in a prank war between Gregory House and Lisa Cuddy in the Season 5 episode Both Sides Now.
Reiner has been on American television practically as long as television has existed in the United States. He started his career on The Fashion Story in 1948 as an on-screen personality, and became a regular sketch performer on live television throughout the fifties. He was one of the featured performers on Your Show of Shows, the most popular television sketch comedy series of the day, and later followed fellow writers and performers Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon onto Caesar's Hour.
However, in 1959, he decided to have a go at writing, producing and starring in his own situation comedy. The pilot episode Head of the Family, about a New York comedy writer working with an egotistical performer on a live television series was well received, but it soon became apparent that Reiner was the wrong person to play the male lead. The series was completely reworked with a young actor in the main role and The Dick Van Dyke Show ran for six hit seasons and made the career of its lead and a young woman who played the main character's wife: Mary Tyler Moore. Reiner played the egotistical, vain "star" of the show in a show Alan Brady. The series ran practically forever in syndication, making Reiner a rich man.
Throughout this period, Reiner worked with his old war buddy Mel Brooks to develop The 2000 Year Old Man, a totally improvised comedy bit about Reiner interviewing Brooks, who pretended to have lived for several millennia and was more than willing to share his insights about biblical events. The collaboration brought them a Grammy Award for best comedy album.
By the 1980s, Reiner was working with another young comedian who, although a success in concerts and television appearances, was unable to break into films. Their collaborations The Jerk and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid made Steve Martin a bankable movie star.
At the age of 90, Reiner was still a regular on television, having a recurring role on Hot in Cleveland.
In his long career, Reiner had featured roles in Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Linus! The Lion Hearted, Good Heavens!, Summer School, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, King of the Hill, Ocean's Eleven (and its two sequels), Life With Bonnie, Father of the Pride (as Sarmoti), and The Cleveland Show. Carl Reiner (March 20, 1922-June 29, 2020) was an American actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and author whose career spanned seven decades. During the early years of television comedy from 1950 to 1957, he acted on and contributed sketch material for Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, starring Sid Caesar. In the 1960s, Reiner was best known as the creator, producer, writer, and actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Reiner formed a comedy duo with Mel Brooks in the "2000 Year Old Man" and acted in films such as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966), and the Ocean's film series (2001–2007). He co-wrote and directed some of Steve Martin's first and most successful films, including The Jerk (1979), and also directed comedies such as Where's Poppa? (1970), Oh, God! (1977), and All of Me (1984).
Reiner appeared in dozens of television specials from 1967 to 2000 and was a guest star on television series from the 1950s until his death. He also voiced characters in film and animated films, and was a reader for books on tape. He wrote more than two dozen books, mostly in his later years.
Reiner was the recipient of many awards and honors, including 11 Emmy Awards, one Grammy Award, and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. He was the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, author Annie Reiner, and artist Lucas Reiner, and the grandfather of Tracy Reiner.
Carl Reiner was born on March 20, 1922, in the Bronx, New York City. His father Irving Reiner was a watchmaker; his mother was Bessie (née Mathias) Reiner. His parents were Jewish immigrants; his father was from Austria and his mother was from Romania. His older brother Charles served in the 9th Division in World War II; his ashes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
When he was 16, Carl was working as a machinist repairing sewing machines. His brother Charles read about a free drama workshop sponsored by the Works Progress Administration and told Carl about it. Carl later credited Charles with his decision to change careers. His uncle Harry Mathias was the first entertainer in his family.
Reiner was drafted into the United States Army Air Forces on October 27, 1942, and served during World War II, eventually achieving the rank of corporal by the end of the war. He initially trained to be a radio operator. After spending three months in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, he was sent to Georgetown University for ten months of training as a French interpreter. There he had his first experience as a director, putting on a Molière play entirely in French. After completing language training in 1944, he was sent to Hawaii to work as a teleprinter operator. The night before he was scheduled to ship out for an unknown assignment, he attended a production of Hamlet by the Special Services entertainment unit. Following an audition before actor and major Maurice Evans, he was transferred to Special Services. Over the following two years, Reiner performed around the Pacific theater, entertaining troops in Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima until he was honorably discharged in 1946.
Television and film careerEdit
Reiner performed in several Broadway musicals (including Inside U.S.A. and Alive and Kicking, and had the lead role in Call Me Mister. In 1950, he was cast by Max Leibman as a comic actor on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, appearing on air in skits while also contributing ideas to writers such as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. He did not receive credit for his sketch material, but won Emmy Awards in 1955 and 1956 as a supporting actor. Reiner also wrote for Caesar's Hour with Brooks, Simon, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin, Mike Stewart, Aaron Ruben, Sheldon Keller, and Gary Belkin. He assumed the role of head writer and semi-regular on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show during the 1959-1960 television season.
Starting in 1960, Reiner teamed with Brooks as a comedy duo on The Steve Allen Show. Their performances on television and stage included Reiner playing the straight man in the 2000 Year Old Man. Eventually, the routine expanded into a series of five comedy albums and a 1975 animated television special, with the last album in the series winning a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Comedy Album. The act gave Brooks "an identity as a comic performer for the first time," said Reiner. Brooks's biographer, William Holtzman, called their 12-minute act "an ingenious jazz improvisation...", while Gerald Nachman described Reiner's part in guiding the act:
- "The routine relies totally on the team's mental agility and chemistry. It's almost heresy to imagine Brooks performing it with any other straight man. Reiner was a solid straight man to Caesar, but with Brooks he is the second-banana supreme...guiding his partner's churning comic mind."
In 1958 Reiner wrote the initial 13 episodes of a television series titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not like Reiner in the lead role for unknown reasons. In 1961 the show was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. In addition to writing many of the episodes, Reiner occasionally appeared as temperamental show host Alan Brady. The series ran from 1961 to 1966 and thereafter entered a long run of syndication. In 1966, Reiner co-starred in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.
Reiner's first film directorial effort was an adaptation of Joseph Stein's play Enter Laughing (1967), which, in turn, was based on Reiner's semi-autobiographical 1958 novel of the same name. Balancing directing, producing, writing, and acting, Reiner worked on a wide range of films and television programs. Films from his early directing career include Where's Poppa? (1970), Oh, God! (1977), and The Jerk (1979).
In My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir (2003), he writes:
Of all the films I have directed, only Where's Poppa? is universally acknowledged as a cult classic. A cult classic, as you may know, is a film that was seen by a small minority of the world's film goers, who insist it is one of the greatest, most daring, and innovative moving pictures ever made. Whenever two or more cult members meet, they will quote dialogue from the classic and agree that "the film was ahead of its time." To be designated a genuine cult classic, it is of primary importance that the film fail to earn back the cost of making, marketing, and distributing it. Where’s Poppa? was made in 1969 for a little over $1 million. According to the last distribution statements I saw, it will not break even until it earns another $650,000.
Reiner played a large role in the early career of Steve Martin by directing his first film, The Jerk (1979), and co-writing and directing the comedian in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983), and All of Me (1984). Reiner also appeared in both The Jerk, playing a version of himself, and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. In 1989, he directed Bert Rigby, You're a Fool.
In 2000 Reiner was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center, where he was honored by fellow friends and comedians, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Steve Martin, Rob Reiner, Jerry Seinfeld, Ray Romano, and Joy Behar. A year later, he portrayed Saul Bloom in Ocean's Eleven, Steven Soderbergh's remake of 1960's Ocean's 11, and later reprised the role in Ocean's Twelve (2004) and Ocean's Thirteen (2007). From 2004 to 2005, Reiner voiced Sarmoti in Father of the Pride.
Reiner appeared in dozens of television specials from 1967 to 2000. He also guest starred in several television series from the 1950s until his death. In May 2009, Reiner guest starred as a clinic patient in "Both Sides Now", the season five finale of House, M.D.. He also voiced Santa Claus in Merry Madagascar (2009) and reprised his role in the The Penguins of Madagascar episode "The All Nighter Before Christmas" (2010). In season 7 (December 2009) of Two and a Half Men, he guest-starred as television producer Marty Pepper. In 2010, he guest starred in three of the first-season episodes of Hot in Cleveland as Elka Ostrovsky's (Betty White) date and reprised the role in February 2011. He also made appearances in The Cleveland Show as Murray and wrote the story for the episode "Your Show of Shows", named after the program that started his career. Reiner reprised his role on Two and a Half Men in seasons 8 (October 2013) and 11 (January 2014).
In 2012 Reiner appeared as a guest on Jerry Seinfeld's show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. They talked at a diner about his comedy career and Reiner invited Jerry to come and have dinner with Mel Brooks and himself. Reiner reported that every night, Brooks headed to his house to eat, watch Jeopardy (he taped it), and watch movies. He went on to offer the one rule for movies was that it had to be one where "somebody says, 'Secure the perimeter!' or 'Get some rest.'" Brooks "falls asleep with his mouth open" every time.
Reiner's final role was in Home Movie: The Princess Bride, a project that Jason Reitman had envisioned to engage his celebrity friends to help raise money for charity during the COVID-19 pandemic, with actors filming their own takes on scenes from The Princess Bride at their own homes. Reiner appeared along with Rob Reiner (who directed the original film) in the final scene as the Grandfather and Grandson, respectively, which Rob said had been shot three days before Reiner's death. Reitman, after hearing of Reiner's death, asked the Reiner family if they should swap out the scene, but the family gave him their blessing to use the scene.
Reiner lent his voice to numerous films and animated films. He also read for books on tape, among them Aesop's Fables and Jack and the Beanstalk, and Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Prince and the Pauper, and Letters from the Earth
Author and novelistEdit
Reiner was the author of more than two dozen books. His first autobiographical novel, Enter Laughing (1958), led to a 1995 sequel, Continue Laughing. He published a memoir, My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir, in 2003. He also wrote a humorous series of memoirs under the titles I Remember Me (2012), I Just Remembered (2014), and What I Forgot To Remember (2015), along with books about film and art. He began writing children's books based on the stories he used to tell a certain grandchild who would request, "Tell me a scary story, Grandpa, but not too scary".
Reiner joined Twitter in 2012, tweeting that he was doing so to keep up with his grandson, Jake. He felt obliged to post at least once per day, and so posted 6,520 tweets and accumulated 367,000 followers. His favorite topics were movies and Donald Trump, but his last tweet was a reminiscence about Noël Coward performing in Las Vegas.
His final interview was a webisode of Dispatches From Quarantine which was posted on YouTube by the Jewish arts organisation, Reboot, and Temple Beth Am. In this, he reminisced about his wife and family, "We met, fell in love, and I was 20 at the time and she was 28, and people said this is not a match ... It only worked for 65 years, and if she didn’t pass on we’d still be working on it."
Approach to comedy writingEdit
Reiner expressed his philosophy on writing comedy in an interview in the December 1981 issue of American Film:
You have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary. If you imagine yourself as somebody really normal and if it makes you laugh, it's going to make everybody laugh. If you think of yourself as something very special, you'll end up a pedant and a bore. If you start thinking about what's funny, you won't be funny, actually. It's like walking. How do you walk? If you start thinking about it, you'll trip.
On December 24, 1943, Reiner married singer Estelle Lebost. The two were married for almost 65 years until her death in October 2008. They were the parents of Rob Reiner (b. 1947); poet, playwright, and author Annie Reiner (b. 1949); and painter, actor, and director Lucas Reiner (b. 1960).
Reiner described himself as a Jewish atheist. He said, "I have a very different take on who God is. Man invented God because he needed him. God is us.
Reiner was a Democrat. His residence was in Beverly Hills, California. Reiner was active on Twitter until the day of his death, becoming one of the oldest celebrities active on the platform.
From 1974 until 2001, Reiner sponsored the Carl Reiner Charity Celebrity Tennis Tournament in La Costa, CA, directed by international tennis player Mike Franks, that was played yearly over three days and included 400 players of which 100 were professionals.
On June 29, 2020, Reiner died at the age of 98 in his home in the company of his family.
Fellow comedians and other figures in the entertainment industry gave tributes and remembrance, including Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Burnett, George Clooney, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, and Sarah Silverman.
- Enter Laughing - 1966
- The Comic - 1969
- Where's Poppa! - 1970
- Oh, God! - 1977
- The One and Only - 1978
- The Jerk - 1979
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - 1982
- The Man with Two Brains - 1983
- All of Me - 1984
- Summer Rental - 1985
- Summer School - 1987
- Bert Rigby, You're a Fool - 1989
- Sibling Rivalry - 1990
- Fatal Instinct - 1993
- That Old Feeling - 1997
- The Thrill of It All - 1963
- The Art of Love - 1965
- Enter Laughing - 1966
- The Comic - 1969
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - 1982
- The Man with Two Brains - 1983
- Bert Rigby, You're a Fool - 1989
- Good Morning World - 1967
- The New Dick Van Dyke Show - 1971-1974
- A Touch of Grace - 1973
- Good Heavens - 1976
- Caesar's Hour - 1954-1957
- The Dinah Shore Chevy Show - 1959-1960
- The Dick Van Dyke Show - 1961-1966
- The Comedy Spot - 1962
- The New Dick Van Dyke Show - 1971-1974
- Lotsa Luck - 1973
- The 2000 Year Old Man - 1975
- The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited - 2004
- The Cleveland Show - 2010-2011
- Inside U.S.A. - 1948
- Alive and Kicking - 1950
- Something Different - 1967
- Tough to Get Help - 1972
- So Long, 174th Street - 1976
- The Roast - 1980
Awards and nominationsEdit
Over Reiner's long television and film career, he earned numerous awards. From his standup comedy albums with Mel Brooks, to writing on Your Show of Shows, Caesar's Hour, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, Reiner earned 11 Primetime Emmy Awards and one Grammy Award.
- 1960 – Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 6421 Hollywood Boulevard
- 1999 – Inducted into Television Hall of Fame
- 2000 – Received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.
- 2017 – Carl and his son, Rob Reiner, became the first father-son duo to have their footprints and handprints added to a concrete slab at Grauman's Chinese Theater
- 2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - 1960
- 2001 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - 1961
- Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks At the Cannes Film Festival - 1962
- 2000 and Thirteen with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks - 1973
- Excerpts from The Complete 2000 Year Old Man - 1994
- The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 - 1997
- How Paul Robeson Saved My Life And Other Mostly Happy Stories - 1999
- Letters From The Earth - Uncensored Writings By Mark Twain - 2001
- Tell Me A Scary Story - 2003
- My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir - 2003
- I Remember Me - 2012
- I Just Remembered - 2014
- What I Forgot to Remember - 2015
- Why & When The Dick Van Dyke Show Was Born - 2015
- Carl Reiner, Now You're Ninety-Four: A Graphic Diary - 2016
- Alive at Ninety-Five: Recalling Movies I Love - 2017
- Approaching Ninety-Six: The Films I Love Viewing and Loved Doing - 2017
- Too Busy To Die - 2017
- The Downing of Trump - 2018
- I Remember Radio - 2018
- Scrunched Photos of the World's Greatest Works of Art - 2019
- Scrunched Celebrity Photos - 2019
- Enter Laughing - 1958
- All Kinds of Love - 1993
- Continue Laughing - 1995
- The 2000 Year-Old Man in the Year 2000: The Book - 1997
- How Paul Robeson Saved My Life (and Other Mostly Happy Stories) - 1999
- Tell Me a Scary Story—but Not Too Scary! - 2003
- The 2000 Year Old Man Goes to School - 2005
- NNNNN: A Novel - 2006
- Tell Me Another Scary Story—But Not Too Scary! - 2009
- Just Desserts: A Novellelah - 2009
- Tell Me a Silly Story 2010
- The Secret Treasure of Tahka Paka - 2015
- You Say God Bless You for Sneezing and Farting! - 2017
Filmography and ConnectionsEdit
- The Fashion Story (1948) - 1 episode
- Campbell Summer Soundstage (1954) - 1 episode
- Ponds Theater (1954) - 2 episodes
- With Joel Grey in Forty Weeks of Uncle Tom
- The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1955) - 1 episode
- Playhouse 90 (1957) - 1 episode
- Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1959) - 1 episode
- Happy Anniversary (1959)
- The Gazebo (1959)
- The Violinist (1959)
- The Comedy Spot (1960)
- Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961)
- The New Steve Allen Show (1961)
- Anatole (1962)
- The Thrill of It All (1963)
- It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
- Burke's Law (1964) - 2 episodes
- The Art of Love (1965)
- Linus! The Lion Hearted (1964-1965) - 3 episodes
- Alice of Wonderland in Paris (1966)
- The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966)
- Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title (1966)
- The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) - 32 episodes
- Funny Is Funny (1966)
- A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
- Good Morning World (1967)
- The Comic (1969)
- That Girl (1969) - 1 episode
- Generation (1969)
- Night Gallery (1971) - 1 episode
- Rowan Martin's Laugh-In (1970-1972) - 3 episodes
- This Week in Nemtim (1972)
- The Bold Ones: The New Doctors (1972) - 1 episode
- Ten from Your Show of Shows (1973)
- The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1972-1973) - 2 episodes
- The Carol Burnett Show (1974) - 1 episode
- Julie and Dick at Covent Garden (1974)
- The 2000 Year Old Man (1975)
- Medical Story (1975) with Shirley Knight
- Good Heavens (1976) - 13 episodes
- Oh, God! (1977)
- The End (1978)
- The Jerk (1979)
- Comedy is Not Pretty (1980) with Peter Graves
- History of the World: Part I (1981)
- Skokie (1981)
- Twilight Theater (1982)
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)
- Faerie Tale Theatre (1984)
- In the Mood (1987)
- Summer School (1987)
- Mickey's 60th Birthday (1988)
- The Spirit of '76 (1990)
- Fatal Instinct (1993) with Sherilyn Fenn
- Frasier (1993) with Dan Butler
- Mad About You (1995) with Anne Elizabeth Ramsay
- Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man (1996)
- The Right to Remain Silent (1996) with Colleen Camp and LL Cool J
- The Larry Sanders Show (1997) - 1 episode
- Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
- Hercules (1998)
- Beggars and Choosers (1999)
- Family Law (1999-2000) - 2 episodes with Julie Warner and Kathleen Quinlan
- The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000) with Piper Perabo
- King of the Hill (1997-2000) - 2 episodes
- with Breckin Meyer in "I Don't Want to Wait..."
- Globehunters (2000)
- Ocean's Eleven (2001)
- The Majestic (2001) with Brent Briscoe
- Crossing Jordan (2002) - 1 episode with Steve Valentine
- Ally McBeal (2002) - 1 episode
- The Alan Brady Show (2003)
- Good Boy (2003)
- Life with Bonnie (2002-2003) - 3 episodes
- The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited (2004)
- Ocean's Twelve (2004)
- The Bernie Mac Show (2002-2005) - 3 episodes
- Boston Legal - 1 episode with Candice Bergen
- Father of the Pride - 14 episodes
- The Blue Elephant (2006)
- Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
- The Adventures of Captain Cross Dresser (2008)
- House, M.D. (2009) - 1 episode
- Merry Madagascar (2009)
- The Penguins of Madagascar (2010) - 1 episode
- The Cleveland Show (2010-2011) - 4 episodes
- Parks and Recreation (2012) - 1 episode
- Dumbbells (2014) with Jaleel White
- Two and a Half Men (2009-2014) - 4 episodes
- With Amber Tamblyn - 2 episodes
- Hot in Cleveland (2010-2014) - 8 episodes
- Bob's Burgers (2014) - 1 episode
- American Dad (2011-2015) - 2 episodes
- With Colleen Camp in "A Star Is Reborn"
- WordGirl (2015) - 1 episode
- Shimmer and Shine (2015) - 1 episode
- Jake and the Never Land Pirates (2014-2015)
- With Steve Valentine in "Mayhem!"
- Justice League Action (2016) - 1 episode
- Family Guy (2016-2017) - 2 episodes with Ralph Garman
- Young & Hungry (2017) - 1 episode
- Duck Duck Goose (2018) with Jennifer Grey
- Angie Tribeca (2018) - 1 episode
- Toy Story 4 (2019)
- Forky Asks a Question (2019) - 1 episode
- The Hollywood Moment at Home Edition 2020- (2020) - 1 episode
- Princess Bride (2020)
- Saddle Up! (TBA)
Carl Reiner at Wikipedia - This article uses text from Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license
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