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Carl Reiner was born in the Bronx on March 20, 1922. He exited laughing on June 29, 2020, in Berverly Hills, California. “Last night my dad passed away. As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.” This was Rob Reiner's tribute to his legendary father the day after Carl passed away.
Carl Reiner was a writer, producer, actor, director, story and creative consultant, husband, father, friend, mentor, and multiple Emmy- and other awards-winner. He is best-known as the creator and creative force behind the 5-time Emmy-winning "Dick Van Dyke Show," where he was initially rejected as the lead actor because it didn't suit him. The show ran for five years, starting in 1961, and was groundbreaking in many ways. It was one of the few shows that actually followed the lead character into his job, and made fun of the human condition without being political or offensive. In fact, one pioneering episode had Rob thinking he was given the wrong baby in the hospital, only to discover that the family he thought was switched was black. It was funny and innocent at the same time. The show also made Mary Tyler Moore (That showgirl with three names, as Carl called her when he was casting the show) and capri pants household words.
Carl Reiner was born in the Bronx and graduated high school at 16. He studied acting while working as a machinist. He gained experience in summer stock and the Borscht Belt circuit, then toured the South Pacific in the Army's special services unit, perfoming in G.I. revues. It's here where he met future "Show of Shows" comrade Howard Morris.
After the war, Reiner honed his craft in revues, including a Broadway musical with Bea Lillie and Jack Haley. He also appeared as a fashion photographer in ABC's "Fashion Story."
A forrunner of today's "Saturday Night Live," called, "Your Show of Shows" (also on NBC), hit the airwaves in 1950, launching Sid Caesar and a host of others, including Howard Morris and Reiner, into stardom. It was a live, 90-minute, comedy-variety show written by the likes of Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Mel Tolkin, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, Lucille Kallen, and others.
Carl moved with Caesar to "Caesar's Hour" from 1954-57, then teamed with Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard to produce "The Dick Van Dyke Show."
Carl Reiner Trivia
- Carl and Estelle were married since 1943. Estelle died in 2008.
- Besides his famous son, Rob, Carl's survivors are daughter Sylvia Anne and son Lucas.
- The original title for "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was "Head of the Family."
- "Head of the Family" was based on the Reiners' life in the suburbs of New Rochelle, NY, while Carl commuted to Manhattan to work on Caesar's shows.
- Ironically, the producers didn't think Carl fit the part!
- Reiner played straight man-interviewer to Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man;” a 1961 recording of the skit was an immediate hit and spawned several sequels, the last of which, 1998’s “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000,” won the pair a Grammy.
- In 1995, Reiner received the Writers Guild’s Laurel Award, a lifetime achievement award for a career in TV writing.
- In 2000 he won the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, presented by the Kennedy Center.
- In 2009 he received the WGA’s Valentine Davies Award, recognizing his writing legacy and valued service to the guild, the entertainment industry, and community at large.
- Many of the Van Dyke Show episodes were based on real-life adventures of the writers.
- In the 2003 “My Anecdotal Life,” he observed, “Inviting people to laugh with you while you are laughing at yourself is a good thing to do. You may be a fool but you’re the fool in charge.”