Carl Reiner Dies @ 98

Just two days before his death at 98 from natural causes, comedy great Carl Reiner tweeted what now sounds like his last words:

Except these were not his last words, not even on social media. He went on to excoriate Donald Trump, lament Hillary Clinton's loss and then praise the late icon Noel Coward with warmth, humility and great humor.

Reiner in 2012 (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

His pinned tweet at the time of his death was about the plight of migrant children, and the last photo of him shows Reiner, his daughter Annie and his best friend Mel Brooks in Black Lives Matter T-shirts:

Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York, on March 20, 1922. He found his way into show biz thanks to his older brother Charlie, who called his attention to a WPA program offering free drama instruction. During his service in WWII, Reiner became more attracted to performing, eventually joining the Special Services as an entertainer. His experience attempting to get a rise out of soldiers scarred by battle made him adept at getting a laugh when the laughs were not near the surface.

After the War, he made his Broadway debut in the revue Inside U.S.A. (1948) and got his start in TV when he was cast in Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (1950-1954) in 1950. Reiner proved his ability to sell a skit as well as to collaborate with fellow titanic talents Mel Brooks and Neil Simon, and worked with more future icons on Caesar's Hour (1954-1957), including Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen.

In the '60s, Reiner and Brooks performed as a duo on The Steve Allen Show and elsewhere, most famously as the creators of the "2000 Year Old Man" sketch that became a series of albums (one of which won a Grammy) and an animated TV special.

Probably Reiner's most famous contribution to TV history was The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), which he had created in 1959 as a vehicle for himself, but which was picked up with Van Dyke as the star. On the show, Reiner played tempestuous TV performer Alan Brady in what is now considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

As an actor, he was usually a riotous exaggeration of himself. He appeared in Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966), The End (1978), and, memorably, in a key role in 2001's Ocean's Eleven and its 2007 sequel Ocean's Thirteen. He made countless guest spots on TV, starting with 1948's The Fashion Show and encompassing some of the most successful series of all time, including That Girl (1969), The Carol Burnett Show (1974), Frasier (1993), Ally McBeal (2002), The Bernie Mac Show (2002-2005), Parks and Recreation (2012), Two and a Half Men (2009-2014), and as a love interest for Betty White on multiple episodes of Hot in Cleveland (2010-2014).

A visit from Reiner was an anointing that a show knew how to bring the funny.

In 1963, Reiner's novel Enter Laughing was adapted into a Broadway play by Joseph Stein. Reiner made his directing debut with the 1967 film version, and had success with a number of other films he directed, including the cult classic Where's Poppa? (1970); Oh, God! (1977) starring George Burns; the Steve Martin films The Jerk (1979), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983), and All of Me (1984). The last film he directed was 1997's Bette Midler vehicle That Old Feeling.

Brooks double-crosses in The Jerk (Image via video still)

As a writer, he contributed to such diverse projects as the Doris Day starrer The Thrill of It All (1963), the animated classic Free to Be... You & Me (1974), and a 2011 episode of The Cleveland Show, on which he voiced crotchety Murray. His other voice contributions include the voice of God in History of the World: Part 1 (1981) and stints on such series as King of the Hill (1997 & 2000), Father of the Pride (2004-2005), Bob's Burgers (2014), American Dad! (2015), and Family Guy (2016 & 2017), and as Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4 (2019).

No slouch, he also wrote several books, including the memoir Carl Reiner, Now That You're 94 four years ago, an illustrated memoir about what it's like to be very, very old — not 2,000 years old, but close.

Reiner was wed to his wife Estelle — who uttered the immortal line "I'll have what she's having" in their son Rob Reiner's movie When Harry Met Sally (1989) — from 1943 until her death in 2008. He is survived by their children Rob, a famous performer and director in his own right; Annie, an author and performer who Reiner dubbed "the World's Greatest Singing Psychoanalyst"; and Lucas, an artist. He is also survived by five grandchildren.

Do yourself a favor and watch Reiner talking at length about his craft:

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