The word “legend” gets thrown around all too easily these days. However, even that lofty honorific seems meager and insufficient when applied to Carl Reiner, who died last night at the age of 98. Variety reports that Carl died in his Beverly Hills home of natural causes. He will be missed by everyone who has ever laughed.
Carl’s son, director Rob Reiner, shared the news on Twitter.
Last night my dad passed away. As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) June 30, 2020
Carl was born in 1922 in The Bronx, New York. His parents were Jewish immigrants, his dad, a watchmaker. After graduating from high school at the age of 16, Carl read about a free drama workshop being put on by the WPA and the rest, as they say, is history.
Carl is perhaps best known as the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show. But creating a single solitary show, no matter its impact on the very nature of television and comedy, does not a legend make. Carl cut his teeth as a writer and performer on Sid Caesar‘s Your Show Of Shows where he met Mel Brooks. The two became an indelible comedy duo, influencing generations of comedians to come. According to The Washington Post:
Mr. Reiner was masterful at following comic logic to its most ridiculous conclusion — especially when he collaborated with Brooks on ad-libbed comedy routines about the 2,000-Year-Old Man. The first of their five albums, released in 1961, influenced a generation of comedians, including Bill Cosby, Billy Crystal, Albert Brooks and Paul Reiser.
After his run on YSOS, and later Caesar’s Hour, Carl forged his own path in television, creating the semi-autobiographical character ultimately played by Dick Van Dyke after a first failed pilot attempt Called Head of The Family flopped with Carl in the lead. For The Dick Van Dyke Show, Carl created the “megalomaniacal TV host, Alan Brady, whose toupee became a running gag,” for himself.
Mr. Reiner shared five Emmy Awards for writing and producing the sitcom, which aired on CBS from 1961 to 1966 and has been in near-constant syndication ever since.
It was one of the first shows about the process of writing for television, an exotic world for most viewers at the time, and it showed a far more playful, believable married couple than earlier sitcoms, comedy historian Nachman said.
Carl has won nine Emmy Awards, a Grammy, and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. That’s some #LegendsOnlyShit
Later in his career, Carl focused on directing and was the creative force behind Steve Martin’s run of hit movies in the late 1970s and early 80s directing The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man With Two Brains (1983) and All of Me (1984), all of which I hold partially responsible for shaping the clown circus that is my personal sense of humor. Carl also stole scenes in numerous films and television shows over the decades including as the voice of God in Mel’s History of the World, Part 1 (1981), Summer School (1987, which he also directed), The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) and Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen (2001, 2004, 2007).
On Twitter, the news of Carl’s passing has prompted an outpouring of love, respect, and deep admiration. In addition to being a comedy legend, Carl, it would seem, was an incredible human being.
Goodbye to my greatest mentor in movies and in life. Thank you, dear Carl. https://t.co/H7A4ZwIqfc
— Steve Martin (@SteveMartinToGo) June 30, 2020
I’ve known Carl Reiner my whole life and I can’t imagine a world without him. A loss for me, a loss for my family, a loss for all of us.
— Max Brooks (@maxbrooksauthor) June 30, 2020
R.I.P. Carl Reiner. Growing up Carl was like a second dad to me. He was the greatest. Not just as a comic legend but as a man. There was no one else this funny and this nice. I loved him.
— Albert Brooks (@AlbertBrooks) June 30, 2020
A picture of Carl Reiner with daughter Annie and recent birthday boy, Mel Brooks all in Black Lives Matter shirts. Fourteen hours ago, he tweeted a multi-part appreciation of Noel Coward. Reiner turned 98 in March. That's a lot of time spent being a good human. pic.twitter.com/Da1mmPpeFM
— Brian Heater (@bheater) June 30, 2020
What a joyful gift @carlreiner was in my life & in the lives of everyone who enjoyed his towering talent. He was a genius, a good friend, & a true gent. I’ll cherish the memory of the times we spent together, & the laughter we shared. My love to his beautiful family & friends. pic.twitter.com/VOY0QyyMk8
— Mitzi Gaynor (@TheMitziGaynor) June 30, 2020
The world has lost a legend and I have lost a friend. There will never be another #CarlReiner. Truly a towering figure in entertainment. We send our deepest, heartfelt condolences to Rob and the whole Reiner family. A sad, sad day 😥 pic.twitter.com/Is1yeACpnN
— Cary Elwes (@Cary_Elwes) June 30, 2020
It will take a while to process losing Carl Reiner because he’s been making me laugh since I was little. That’s some very funny processing helping leaven the sadness. Thank you, Carl. You done good.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) June 30, 2020
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. We love you, Carl. pic.twitter.com/QWyNOYILhW
— Alan Alda (@alanalda) June 30, 2020
A life well-lived and a man well-loved. As tributes continue to roll in, I’m sure Carl’s family and the legions who loved him, will find solace knowing his impact will live on for as long as people continue to laugh.