US comedy legend Carl Reiner, best known for The Dick Van Dyke Show, has died aged 98.
He died of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, survived by three children, including Rob Reiner.
“Last night my dad passed away,” Rob Reiner tweeted. “As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”
Writer, director and actor Carl Reiner worked in every US medium from theatre and audio recordings to television and movies.
The son of a watchmaker, he started in entertainment as a teenager in a touring theatre troupe but later performed shows for the US troops, writing and performing his own comedy material.
After the Broadway musical Call Me Mister, he was hired to join Sid Caesar’s popular TV sketch comedy series Your Show of Shows in the 1950s. He became was part of Caesar’s ensemble of performers as well as a celebrated writing team that included such then-unknown talents as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart.
Reiner himself said the work that defined him, was The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), which he created and produced, and sometimes wrote and directed. Dick Van Dyke starred as television comedy writer Rob Petrie, who’d return from work in New York City every day to his modest but enviably modern little home in New Rochelle, greeted by his unassuming screwball-genius wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore), and son, Richie (Larry Matthews). The series went on to amass 14 Emmys, including five for Reiner.
He also won Emmys for his work on Caesar’s Hour and Mad About You.
Film credits included directing Oh, God!, in The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, Ocean’s Eleven, All of Me, Summer Rental and That Old Feeling.
Comedy character The 2000 Year Old Man was created as Reiner and Mel Brooks were fooling around during a lull in the writers room at Your Show of Shows. Reiner played an earnest TV reporter interviewing the bombastic Brooks, who used a Yiddish accent, as the oldest man in the world.
Mel Brooks said in a statement, “Carl was a giant, unmatched in his contributions to entertainment. He created comedy gems like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Jerk and Where’s Poppa? I met him in 1950 when he joined Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows and we’ve been best friends ever since. I loved him. When we were doing The 2000 Year Old Man together there was no better straight man in the world. So whether he wrote or performed or he was just your best friend—nobody could do it better. He’ll be greatly missed. A tired cliché in times like this, but in Carl Reiner’s case it’s absolutely true. He will be greatly missed.”
Dick Van Dyke said, “He had a deeper understanding of the human condition, than I think even he was aware of.”
Steve Martin said, “My friend Carl Reiner died last night. His talent will live on for a long time, but the loss of his kindness and decency leaves a hole in our hearts.”
Alan Alda wrote on Twitter. “We love you, Carl.”
Reiner once expressed his approach to his work in his book My Anecdotal Life, when he said: “Inviting people to laugh at you while you are laughing at yourself is a good thing to do. You may be the fool but you are the fool in charge.”