Carl Reiner, 98 years of funny (opinion)


Too soon.

Too soon

Come now. You know it's funny. Carl Reiner would have known it was fun. He would back me up, except he was the one who died at 98.

I'd also know why it's funny. "The absolute truth," said Reiner, "is what makes people laugh."
And Reiner, even though he was the age when, to paraphrase Casey Stengel, most of the other people are dead, he was still an active and resourceful presence on the pop culture scene along with his longtime friend and frequent frustrated Mel Brooks. Both of them, last weekend, were photographed celebrating Brooks' 94th birthday (!) Wearing "Black Lives Matter" shirts.

And now he's dead? Already? The way Reiner was going, we all thought he would be 98 years older. At least.

Carl Reiner, left, with star Dick Van Dyke appear in a scene from
It's also fun, just as an aside, because Reiner appreciated the fun numbers. And 98 is one of those numbers that, for some mysterious reason, is a fun number. Like 32. or 63. Or 2,000, which was the number of years assigned to Brooks's alter ego, "The 2,000-Year-Old Man," for whom Reiner portrayed the straight man and interlocutor on various comedy albums and hundreds of television shows. and theater. shows.
Perhaps the first place to start evaluating Carl Reiner is as a second banana, and that's how he garnered national attention as part of the unrivaled set of comedic actors supporting the explosively versatile Sid Caesar in groundbreaking television comedy "Your Show of Shows " variety series (1950-54).
Steve Martin poses with Carl Reiner in 1979.

Reiner not only demonstrated himself in that melting pot of live television late at night as the model for an agile, responsive, and boundless performer, but he was also an important part of a legendary team of writers for " Show of Shows "and its successor," The Hour of Caesar "(1954-57), which included future members of the Hall of Fame such as Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen.

Reiner's comedic instincts, appreciation of talent and collective skills in a writers' room combined to create what he and others consider his masterpiece: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-66). Even in its earliest form, the show drew on Reiner's experiences as a suburban, father (one of whose children would grow up to be a film director and actor Rob Reiner) and a comedy writer, but Reiner had initially served in the Rob Petrie's lead role. It was producer Sheldon Leonard, according to Reiner, who stepped in and said, "We need to get a better actor than you." Reiner agreed, Van Dyke got the role, and the rest is a story that Ottoman and won multiple Emmy Awards.
Carl Reiner is photographed with his son Rob Reiner in 2017.

Reiner never reached those far-reaching achievements again, but he kept himself busy and kept being, and writing, fun. The onstage and studio partnership with Brooks spanned the 21st century and had an admirable record as a writer-director for such films as "Where & # 39; s Poppa" (1970) and "Oh God" (1977). His streak of good luck included a streak of big screen collaborations with Steve Martin, beginning with "The Jerk" (1979) and continuing with "Dead Men Don & # 39; t Wear Plaid" (1982), "The Man with Two Brains "(1983) and" All of Me "(1984).

All along, he kept faith in the medium that he did, television, where he frequently appeared as a guest on a talk show and showed that he could still act as a small player, either by portraying himself as the neighbor of Bernie Mac, voicing animated characters. in "Family Guy", "Bob & # 39; s Burgers" or "The Penguins of Madagascar" (played Santa) or stealing scenes in "Two and a Half Men" as the geriatric rouy Marty Pepper.

Reiner, in other words, never stopped showing up. Which, as his longtime fellow writer Woody Allen insists, is the key to success, or perhaps just "one."
He was (of course) a chain tweeter, featuring one-line comments and political comments (he, along with Van Dyke and Brooks, supported Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign this year) in his feed. Her tweet from June 27 started with what turned out to be a elegant and appropriate epitaph: "Nothing pleases me more than knowing that I have lived the best life possible."

Funny? Maybe not. But absolutely true.


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