Carl Reiner



Biography

Carl Reiner, author-actor-writer-director, and one of television's most creative minds, has influenced nearly every major comedic talent of the past 50 years. Born in the Bronx on March 20, 1922, he was the son of a watchmaker. At Evander Childs High School, his interest was baseball, but at age seventeen he took a job as a machinist helper in the millinery trade. He simultaneously enrolled in a drama class that was sponsored by the Government's Works Project Administration (WPA). He soon found work in a semi-professional, non-paying theatre company. In 1942, Reiner went into the Army and was trained as a radio operator. He later studied French on assignment at Georgetown University in order to become an interpreter, but ultimately became a teletype operator in the Signal Corps where, on the way to Iwo Jima from Hawaii, was assigned to Maurice Evans' Special Entertainment Unit. There for 18 months, he toured the South Pacific as a comedian in GI reviews. After three more years in various Broadway musicals, he became Sid Caesar's versatile and popular second banana in the classic television comedy review, "Your Show of Shows," with Caesar and Imogene Coca. In 1950, during breaks in the legendary writing room for Caesar's show, Reiner and cast member Mel Brooks started improvising the 2000 Year Old Man interviews. The 2000 Year Old Man (Brooks) and his amazed yet always-skeptical interviewer (Reiner) entertained their friends and colleagues during the 1950s, as they worked on Your Show Of Shows and Caesar's Hour. For the latter, Reiner received two Emmys for Best Supporting Actor. Finally coaxed into a recording studio in 1960, Reiner and Brooks made their first, best-selling album, 2000 Years With Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, which earned a Grammy nomination and established Brooks as a performer and propelled Reiner's screen-writing career. They were stars of five albums (three of them nominated for Grammys) between 1960-1973, and in 1974 their voices were featured in an animated video. In 1999, they won a Grammy for their CD, The Two Thousand Year Old Man In The Year 2000. (Rhino Records)

In 1958, his first novel, Enter Laughing, was published. A semi-autobiographical work, the book chronicled a young man's frustrations as a machinist helper in the millinery trade and his eventual entry into show business. The book subsequently became the basis for a Broadway play (adapted by Joe Stein) and later a feature film, which Reiner directed and co-produced.

In 1961, Reiner created The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran for five seasons and has been in syndication ever since, with Reiner playing toupeé-topped star Alan Brady. The beloved show earned Reiner seven of his 12 Emmys--three for writing and four as producer/creator. During that first season, Reiner also wrote his first feature film, the romantic comedy, The Thrill Of It All, starring James Garner and Doris Day. Reiner went on to become a major Hollywood director and writer with such comedy hits as Where's Poppa? (1970), Enter Laughing (1967), Oh, God (1977), The Comic (1969), four Steve Martin pictures--The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), The Man With Two Brains (1983), and All Of Me (1984), as well as Summer Rental (1985), The One And Only (1978), Summer School (1987), Bert Rigby, You're A Fool (1989), Sibling Rivalry (1990), Fatal Instinct (1993), and That Old Feeling (1997). Reiner also played a starring role in the hit comedy The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), and had featured or cameo roles in It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), The Gazebo (1959), Generation (1969), The End (1978), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), and The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998).

Reiner is the author of three best-selling novels, Enter Laughing (1958), All Kinds Of Love (1993), and Continue Laughing (1995). Twenty-four years after The 2000 Year Old Man's last recording and forty-seven years after the inception of the character, Reiner and Brooks again rewrote history with their book, The 2000 Year Old Man In The Year 2000 (Including How To Not Die And Other Good Tips), from Cliff Street Books/HarperCollins (1997). Last year, the same publisher released Reiner's current and successful book of short stories, How Paul Robeson Saved My Life, And Other Mostly Happy Stories.

Last year, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Mr. Reiner by inducting him into The Television Academy Hall of Fame.

Reiner and his wife, the former Estelle Lebost, were married December 24, 1943. Their three children are Rob Reiner, actor-writer-director and social activist, Annie Reiner, poet-painter-playwright-psychoanalyst, and Lucas Reiner, painter-screenwriter-director.

(May 2000)
Photo of Carl Reiner