Carl Reiner’s first book was called “Enter Laughing,” and it truly was the story of his life.
The Bronx native, a comedy titan as a writer, producer, actor and director for decades, died Monday at 98.
Reiner, best known for creating “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” died of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., his assistant, Judy Nagy, confirmed.
“Last night my dad passed away,” his son, actor Rob Reiner, tweeted Tuesday. “As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.” Advertisement
The comedian’s family was with him when he died, according to TMZ.
Reiner could truly do it all. He directed comedy smashes such as “Oh God” with George Burns and “The Jerk” with Steve Martin, and sold millions of records as the straight man to pal Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man.
But television was perhaps his best medium. He became a hot commodity as Sid Caesar’s foil in the 1950s, but it was the role he didn’t play that may have brought his greatest contribution to comedy culture.
After his time with Caesar, Reiner was offered starring roles in sitcoms, but he thought the scripts were weak. Reiner’s wife, Estelle, said that he could write a better show, so that’s what he did, creating an autobiographical pilot, in which he starred. It went nowhere.
Actor-turned TV producer Sheldon Leonard, however, saw the failed pilot, and offered to give it another shot. Reiner said he didn’t want to be disappointed again, but Leonard had a solution.
“He says, ‘You won’t fail. I’ll get a better actor to play you,'” Reiner recalled to Conan O’Brien.
The “better actor” was Dick Van Dyke, and with Reiner writing and producing, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” became a comedy classic. Van Dyke played Rob Petrie, a comedy writer living in New Rochelle, N.Y., at the time. The show deftly mixed Rob’s home life with Mary Tyler Moore as his wife and Larry Mathews as his son, and his office life opposite fellow writers Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam.
The three wrote for the egotistical star Alan Brady. At first Reiner played Brady only from the back, but then realized Brady needed to be seen and heard, so he fully took on the character for occasional guest appearances.
“Carl was the brains behind everything,” Rose Marie said in an interview for the Archive of American Television. “His mind is brilliant for comedy.”
The show ran for five seasons, winning 15 Emmys, before Reiner and company decided to go out on top.
From there, Reiner went on to films. “Enter Laughing” in 1967 was his first, but his true breakthough came in the havenly hit “Oh God” in 1977. Two years later, Reiner and Martin began a highly successful collaboration. The comedian appeared in Reiner’s next four films: “The Jerk (1977), “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (1982), “The Man With Two Brains” (1983) and “All of Me” (1984).
Carl Reiner was active on Twitter as he neared a century of life, often tweeting his displeasure with President Trump. Posts were shared to his Twitter account as recently as Monday afternoon.
He described himself as a “Jewish atheist,” and the people who knew and worked with him thought of him as a true mensch.
Reiner credited the start of his acting career to his older brother, Charlie, who came across an article in the Daily News.
News of his death was met with an outpouring of condolences.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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