Carl Reiner, a driving force in American comedy since the 1950s, has died aged 98 at his home in California.
- Reiner created and co-starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show
- He was a frequent partner of fellow US comedy great Mel Brooks
- His agent said he died of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills
Reiner’s career spanned seven decades and every medium from theatre and audio recordings to television and movies.
His film credits included directing George Burns in 1977’s Oh, God! and Steve Martin in The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid and The Man with Two Brains.
He later appeared as an elderly con man in the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven.
He was a frequent partner of fellow US comedy great Mel Brooks as well creating and co-starring in the classic US TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show.
He was still taking voice acting roles in his 90s and had a key role in If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, a documentary about people who keep busy into their 90s.
Reiner’s assistant Judy Nagy said he died on Monday night of natural causes, in his Beverly Hills home.
Reiner is survived by three children, including Rob Reiner, director of several hit movies and known for playing Archie Bunker’s son-in-law Meathead in the hit TV comedy All in the Family.
Reiner’s wife of 64 years, Estelle, died in 2008.
Reiner 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.”
Reiner, the Bronx-born son of a watchmaker, started in entertainment as a teenager in a touring theatre troupe that performed Shakespearean plays.
But his career took a decisive turn after he joined the Army Signal Corps during World War II.
Recruited into a special unit that put on shows for the troops, Reiner began writing and performing his own comedy material.
Returning to New York City after the war, Reiner appeared in several Broadway musicals, including a lead in Call Me Mister, before he was hired to join Caesar’s popular TV sketch comedy series Your Show of Shows in the 1950s.
Reiner was part of Caesar’s ensemble of performers as well as a celebrated writing team that included such then-unknown talents as Brooks, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart.
Reiner and Brooks remained close into their late 90s with Reiner telling USA Today in 2019 that they got together regularly to watch game shows and movies.
Brooks joined Reiner in creating the 2,000-Year-Old Man routine in which Reiner interviewed the world’s oldest living man, played by Brooks, who deadpans satiric, first-person anecdotes of history in a thick Jewish accent.
Originally ad-libbed by Reiner and Brooks at a party, the sketch evolved into a perennial TV favourite and basis for five comedy albums, the latest of which earned a 1998 Grammy Award.
He also won Emmys for his work on Caesar’s Hour, Mad About You and The Dick Van Dyke Show.