AND THE LIGHT WENT OUT: GOODBYE CARL REINER – Marilyn Armstrong

So many years of Carl Reiner, from one of the very first television shows I ever saw, peeking in through my parents bedroom door, watching and giggling softly through ” Your Show of Shows,” starring Sid Caesar.

Carl Reiner was always there, as a writer, director, and actor, he and Mel Brooks performing “The 2000-Year Old Man” was one of the funniest performances on TV and recordings.

I had a vinyl recording of the 2000-year old man. Then, I had a recorded tape and when that wore out, I bought the CD. It was never the same story each time. It was just something that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did. It was a “party story” that became a recording, a stage show, an ongoing story to which we all knew the words.

But he was so much more than a comedian. He was a brilliant and exceptionally creative writer, director, and actor. The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) was one of the funniest movies I ever saw. Touching, too.

Reiner won many awards and honors. Nine Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He was the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, author Annie Reiner, and artist Lucas Reiner, and the grandfather of Tracy Reiner … and Mel Brooks best friend. All through the years, as their wives passed on, they walked to each other’s houses and breakfasted together. I hoped they would never die. I wanted them to be friends forever.

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In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not like Reiner in the lead role for unknown reasons. In 1961, it was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Reiner was author of several books, including a 2004 memoir “My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir” and novels, such as his 2006 novel “NNNNN: A Novel. In American Film,” he expressed his philosophy on writing comedy:


“You have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary. If you imagine yourself as somebody really normal and if it makes you laugh, it’s going to make everybody laugh. If you think of yourself as something very special, you’ll end up a pedant and a bore. If you start thinking about what’s funny, you won’t be funny, actually. It’s like walking. How do you walk? If you start thinking about it, you’ll trip.”


There was so much more. Now, Carl Reiner’s son, Rob Reiner, carries the light forward. Carl Reiner, may you rest-in-peace. You brought joy to so many of us for so many years. At a time when laughter has become a rare thing, Carl Reiner made us laugh.

NINETY AND MORE: “IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST”

A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an HBO show called ‘If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.” It was put together by Carl Reiner and it features his gang of over-90 year old friends from show business. Many of them are enjoying what you could only call extraordinarily good health, but not all. It’s a pretty good show and if you get a chance, you should watch it. It’s funny — it’s Carl Reiner with a dollop of Mel Brooks, so why not? But it’s also good sense.

Courtesy: HBO

Listening to these guys talk about getting very old — not just regular old — brought up a lot of consistent themes. All of them were busy. All computer literate. Most of them are writers. All of them felt the quality of their work was as good or better than it had ever been. Many of them said how grateful they were for their computers and being connected … and at least one of them commented that he hoped to die with his fingers on the keyboard.

From left, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Carl Reiner in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.” Credit HBO

There were other commonalities. All of them were healthy eaters. None of them were smokers. If they were ever drinkers, none of them are currently is. All of them exercised as much as life allowed. No one seemed resentful of having to give up fatty or fried food. No one felt that life wouldn’t be worth living if they couldn’t overeat or keep hold of their old bad habits. I got the feeling that most of them hadn’t had all that many bad habits anyway.

And all of them were enthusiastic and excited about life, even though — obviously — all of them had lost many friends and family to death. Because at that age, that’s the way it is. For that matter, at our age, that’s also the way it is.

Courtesy: HBO

It was the energy and enthusiasm which was so striking. And the writing.

I have always thought writing is one of those things that keeps your brain alive and working. When people ask me why I do this — blog — and why I write so often, I just smile. What else would I be doing if not this? What else could I do that would make me feel as involved and alive as writing does?

Young people assume that all very old people must be creaking along, barely able to walk, much less think. Some of us may have trouble walking, but mentally? I don’t think there is a smarter group of people anywhere.

EVEN MORE SHARING – CEE’S SHARE YOUR WORLD, 2014 WEEK 31

Sharing My World

If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be? (guest can be dead, alive, famous or someone you just know)

This was really hard! So many people with whom I’d love to chat, to ask questions. Or really, just hang out.

So at the top of this list, the late great Douglas Adams. I don’t know what I’d ask him, but I just want to be in his presence and smile.

For conversation, I first thought I’d invite a couple of favorite living authors. But there are too many. Many, many, too many. How could I possible pick just two?

TV Camera-25

So I’ll just invite Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. They are — so far, so good — alive and funny. I will ask them to do “The 2,000 Year Old Man.” Then I can sit there and laugh until I cry!

With what can you always be found?

75-WiseOldSelfieAdj_4

A camera and spare eyeglasses. I don’t get along with bifocals, so I carry computer glasses (with which I can also read) plus prescription sunglasses and a spare pair of regular “seeing” glasses. And my Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS -25, my latest, greatest go everywhere compact super-zoom camera.

What is the most fun thing you did in school?

Being a pain in the butt. Then getting punished (?) by being sent to the art room where I could spend the day mucking around with paint, glue, scissors, and oak tag. I answered too many questions which interfered with the education of my classmates, so they got rid of me by banishing me.

I loved it. Just me and all that stuff. I didn’t even have to share. Yay.

What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

Since I have no idea how other people do stuff, I have no way to know if I do it differently. Whatever it is. I can’t think of anything I do in an especially unique way. But I’ll let you know if I think of anything.

What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward next week?

A new book — the first of two — by Carol Berg, one of my favorite authors, came out this week and I bought it on Kindle and as an audiobook today. I also have James Lee Burke’s latest waiting for me, as well as Gretchen Archer’s latest (not yet published — an advance reader edition of Double Strike) David Way caper. Next week, when Garry goes to New York to visit his brother, I am going to indulge in an orgy of listening to audiobooks and reading in bed.

This may not sound exciting to you, but to me it sounds like heaven.

THE FUNNIEST YEAR – My Favorite Year

Video

my-fav-year

This is one of those movies that I will watch any time it shows up on cable. No matter when (doesn’t matter since we have DVRs all over the house), it’s laugh-out-loud funny, funny enough to laugh at the jokes in advance after you’ve seen it a dozen times or move. Everyone in it gives a perfect performances. If you haven’t seen it, grab it before it gets away.

It isn’t merely funny. It’s also history, the history of comedy. The crazy kids who grew up to create the movies and television shows that made history and formed the comedy genre as we know and love it.

This is a wonderful, nostalgic, hilarious movie based on the “kids” who wrote the material for the “Show of Shows”, a live comedy show starring the great Sid Caesar. Among the many writers to emerge from this incubator of talent were Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Howard Morris, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Norman Lear, Larry Gelbart (creator of MASH, the TV series) and many others. The writer’s room group reads like the who’s who of comedy.

Much of the story is based on an actual event, the week that Errol Flynn (Peter O’Toole) came to town to guest star on the Sid Caesar show. Mel Brooks, the kid in the movie was in fact assigned to “babysit” Flynn and make sure he stayed sober and showed up for the broadcast. Although the character is a bit of a composite, he’s mostly Mel.

Richard Benjamin directed it. Joe Bologna as “King Kaiser” (Sid Caesar) is wonderful. And as far as I’m concerned, this is far and away Peter O’Toole’s best performance. You may prefer Lawrence of Arabia, but this movie does it for me.

We never get tired of it. We never stop laughing. We watched it last night for maybe the 100th time and laughed as much as ever.

You WILL enjoy it. You have my personal guarantee on that. Or double your money back!

(Not really 🙂 )

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Weekly Writing Challenge: Reel Talk – My Favorite Year: A Favorite Movie

Image

my-fav-year

It’s laugh-out-loud funny. Great performances. Definitely see it.

This is a wonderful, nostalgic, hilarious movie based on the “kids” who wrote the material for the “Show of Shows”, a live comedy show starring the great Sid Caesar. Among the many writers to emerge from this incubator of talent were Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Howard Morris, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Norman Lear, Larry Gelbart (creator of MASH, the TV series) and many others. The writer’s room group reads like the who’s who of comedy.

Much of the story is based on an actual event, the week that Errol Flynn (Peter O’Toole) came to town to guest star on the Sid Caesar show. Mel Brooks, the kid in the movie was really assigned to “babysit” Flynn and make sure he stayed sober and showed up for the broadcast. Although the character is a bit of a composite, he’s mostly Mel.

Richard Benjamin directed it. Joe Bologna as “King Kaiser” (Sid Caesar) is wonderful. And as far as I’m concerned, this is far and away Peter O’Toole’s best performance. You may prefer Lawrence of Arabia, but this movie really does it for me.

It’s one of Garry and my all time favorite movies. We know it so well that we laugh before the jokes and we never get tired of it. We watched it last night for maybe the 500th time and laughed as much as we always do.

You WILL enjoy it. You have my personal guarantee on that. Or double your money back!

(Not really 🙂 )

Note: This is supposed to be the weekly writing challenge. Video is not writing. I’m sure there are many bloggers fascinated by the potential uses of video, but is this the appropriate forum to present it? Just asking. I do not see a big response, so perhaps I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand how this became the writing challenge of the week.