Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show, Ocean’s Eleven, 2000 Year Old Man), born in 1922, has died at the age of 98 of natural causes in his home in Beverly Hills, via The Hollywood Reporter. His most notable works consisted of comedy, acting, directing, screenwriting, and publishing. His career lasted over 70 years, when he most famously created, produced, wrote, and acted on The Dick Van Dyke Show which aired from 1961-1966.
Reiner initially began gaining traction within his career in the 1950s as a writer on Sid Caesar’s (Your Show Of Shows, Grease) live programs, including Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. These same shows also helped launch the careers of Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris), Larry Gelbart (MASH, AfterMASH), Neil Simon (Barefoot in the Park), and Howard Morris (The Andy Griffith Show, The Flintstones).
Lifelong friends Reiner and Mel Brooks (The Producers, Space Balls), eventually launched one of the most well-known comedy routines in history The 2000 Year Old Man. It was originally created in the 1950s but wasn’t performed until the 1960s. , According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show featured television appearances with Ed Sullivan (The Ed Sullivan Show) and Steve Allen (The Steve Allen Show) and eventually yielded a 1975 animated television special and a Grammy Award.
In a 2011 interview with the WGA West, Reiner recalled, “I’d written a novel, Enter Laughing, but I had never written a situation comedy. I remember talking to myself…the question I asked myself at Franklin Roosevelt Drive and 96th Street was, ‘Reiner, what piece of ground do you stand on that no one else stands on? Write about that. I said, ‘Well, I live in New Rochelle. I’m married. I have two kids. I work in New York. I’m a writer on a television variety show, Your Show Of Shows….that’s how Head of the Family which would become The Dick Van Dyke Show, was born,” via The Hollywood Reporter.
The Dick Van Dyke Show starred Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) as Rob Petrie. The show followed Petrie’s work and home life as a television comedy writer. Reiner wrote the show based on the time he spent as a writer for Your Show of Shows and most of the characters are based on real people. The show aired for five seasons and aired reruns the first summer it aired, which was rare at the time. The re-airing of some episodes helped amass more viewers for season 2. The show won 14 Emmys, 5 of which were for Reiner for Outstanding Comedy Series, three for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, and for Outstanding Program Achievements in Entertainment.
In an interview with David Steinberg on Inside Comedy, Van Dyke said, “Carl Reiner is the best writer in the world. He understood everyone’s way of speaking, the cadence, the intonation, everything. He wrote for everyone the way they talked. I didn’t have to act; all I had to do was read the lines. He was that good,” via The Hollywood Reporter.
Along with comedy, writing, and acting, Reiner also served as a game show panelist and host in the 1960s. He hosted The Celebrity Game, where he would ask nine guest stars questions and the contestants would have to guess their answers. While the show was cancelled the next year, the producers changed the format of it, placing the stars in cubicles and renaming it The Hollywood Squares.
The Georgetown University graduate also wrote several novels, including the aforementioned autobiographical novel, “Enter Laughing.” Reiner eventually wrote a movie based off his novel, which is when he made his directing debut. The film was released in 1967 and starred Reni Santori (Cobra), José Ferrer (Moulin Rouge), Shelley Winters (A Place In The Sun). Alongside his autobiography, Reiner also wrote “All Kinds of Love” in 1993, “How Paul Robeson Saved My Life, a collection of short stories, in 1999, “Just Desserts: A Novellah” in 1991, “NNNNN: A Novel” in 2006, and his memoirs “My Anecdotal Life” in 2003 and “Remember Me” in 2012.
Just 20 years ago in 2000, Reiner won the prestigious Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Being the third person to be bestowed that award, Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld, The Bee Movie) was present at the ceremony. He compared Reiner to Mark Twain in a statement per The Hollywood Reporter, “I think Carl Reiner is funnier than Mark Twain. Twain is funny, don’t get me wrong. But what was his best bit? I’m sorry, but this guy is not touching Carl Reiner. Twain would be working to type script changes for Carl Reiner. Twain should be so lucky to be here today so he could get the Carol Reiner Prize.”
The 2000 Year Old Man, one of the most well acclaimed comedy routines of all time, led By Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, can be watched below.