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Comedy Icon Carl Reiner Dies at 98

Reiner began his career on Broadway in the 1940s.

Carl Reiner, circa 1960
(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Entertainment industry legend Carl Reiner, an icon of comedy and the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, has died of natural causes at the age of 98.

Winner of nine Emmy Awards, Reiner earned five for The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961 to 66, and on which he played television host Alan Brady. The series was based on his experiences working on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, and Reiner earned his first two Emmys, in 1956 and 1957, for his performances.

Born in the Bronx in 1922, Reiner always credited his brother Charlie with changing his career path after Charlie told him about a free drama workshop being presented by the Works Progress Administration. After working his way through summer stock and the old Borscht Belt, Reiner was drafted into the Air Force during World War II. A bout of pneumonia changed his plans, sending him into training as a French interpreter. During that time, he directed a play by Molière entirely in French and later auditioned for the Special Services. He spent two years performing around the Pacific Theater, entertaining troops from Hawaii to Iwo Jima.

Reiner's theatrical career began in 1947 when he was cast in the revue Call Me Mister. He would go on to appear in shows titled Inside U.S.A. and Alive and Kicking on Broadway. He wrote and directed the play Something Different (Broadway, 1967), and also directed Broadway productions of Tough to Get Help, which closed on opening night in 1972, and The Roast, which closed two days after opening in 1980. Joseph Stein adapted Reiner's autobiographical novel Enter Laughing into a play, and later turned it into the musical So Long, 174th Street. While the Broadway production flopped, the musical, eventually reworked and retitled Enter Laughing like the novel, would go on to become an off-Broadway hit for the York Theatre Company.

Reiner's screen career lasted from the 1950s straight through until now. Among his 400 credits are the films The Jerk and Where's Poppa? (which he directed), the Ocean's Eleven film franchise, and television shows ranging from Two and a Half Men to Hot in Cleveland to Family Guy. He most recently voiced the role of Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4. With longtime friend Mel Brooks, Reiner was half of the 2000 Year Old Man comedy duo, serving as the interviewer of Brooks's title character.

Reiner's wife, Estelle, whom he married in 1943, died in 2008. He is survived by their children, actor and director Rob Reiner, daughter Sylvia Anne, and son Lucas, as well as six grandchildren and five great-granchildren.

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