Carl Reiner was an actor, writer and director of comedy who shared his journey of television and movies with an appreciative audience that spanned seven decades.
Reiner, who died last Monday at age 98, was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by Kennedy Center in 2000 and was widely respected by his peers. Reiner won 11 Emmy Awards, a Grammy award and was inducted into the television Hall of Fame in 1999. Reiner was the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, who played the character Michael Stivik on the CBS sitcom All in the Family.
In the genre of sketch comedy shows of the 1950s one can turn in a variety of directions and find some of televisions finest performances. But one show brought moments that will endure the test of time and helped to define the path of TV history, largely due to Reiner’s influence. “Your Show of Shows” a 90-minute variety show which ran weekly on NBC from 1950 to 1954, starring Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, and Howard Morris, brought stardom to Reiner, who not only acted in performances but wrote material with greats such as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. Those of us not lucky enough to have seen these live performances can view dozens of them on YouTube.
According to the New York Times, Sid Caesar, who led the cast of Your Show of Shows, said of Reiner in a book in 2003, “He was a comedian himself, and he truly understood and still understands comedy. Most people still don’t realize the importance of a straight man in comedy, or how difficult that role is. Carl had to make his timing my timing. He was the best straight man I’ve ever worked with.”
Reiner is probably best known for the creation of the Dick Van Dyke show, which ran from 1961 to 1966. Reiner basically created the role of Rob Petrie as himself, and the show won 15 Emmy Awards. Reiner also directed classics movies such as, “Oh God!” (1977) starring George Burns and “The Jerk” (1977) starring Steve Martin.
In more contemporary times, Reiner appeared on television sit-coms and held an active Twitter presence articulating his perceptions on culture and politics.
Reiner spent his life influencing our lives with how he saw contemporary culture. And translating that into smart and witty comedy. To the dull reactions of his dead pan, straight man style to the spark and energy from his writing and directing, Reiner will be forever be remembered as an average man who made a lasting impression on entertainment and comedy.
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. If that’s true, in these times, we have lost one of our most prolific doctors of humor.