His long and varied career in show business is memorable for The Dick Van Dyke Show, his comedy duo with Mel Brooks and screenplays for Steve Martin films like The Jerk.
(JTA) — Until the last day of his life, Carl Reiner was tweeting about some of his favorite topics: politics, comedy and the twists and turns he experienced over decades as one of the world’s greatest living funnymen.
Reiner died Monday, June 29, at 98, hours after reiterating his dismay that Donald Trump had become president, days after posing with his daughter Annie and longtime friend Mel Brooks in Black Lives Matter shirts and 70 years after his first television appearance.
The Bronx native, the son of Jewish immigrant parents, called himself a “Jewish atheist” and said his faith in God had ended with the Holocaust. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he began a long and varied show business career. He created The Dick Van Dyke Show, formed a comedy duo with Brooks that was highlighted in their album the “2000 Year Old Man,” wrote screenplays for Steve Martin films including The Jerk and, in his later years, voiced characters in animated films.
In 1999, Jewish News Contributing Writer Suzanne Chessler interviewed Reiner before a planned appearance in Michigan, in which he shared some memories of Detroit. He told her about the time when he was in a Broadway road company of Call Me Mister in 1947, and Detroit was the last stop before we went to Chicago. “My son Robbie (producer-director-actor Rob Reiner) was 5 weeks old. There were two weeks in Detroit and Cleveland when I did not see my little son, but my wife brought him out to Chicago because that was a six- month run. We stayed at a hotel, and that’s where he started to grow.”
An avid baseball fan, Reiner told Chessler about one of his all-time favorite players. “When I was a kid, I knew every Detroit ballplayer because I followed every team in the league,” he said. “When Hank Greenberg, a Jewish kid from the Bronx, became an idol not only in Detroit but in the whole baseball community, I followed his career.”
His ‘Key to Longeveity’
In a 2015 documentary about longevity that Reiner hosted, he offered his own secrets for long life.
“The key to longevity,” he said, “is to interact with other people.”
Reiner and Brooks remained close friends into their 90s, often eating dinner together, as an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” showed.
In the documentary, Reiner also offered insight into what made him funny.
“I think it’s partly your genes,” he said. “Also, it’s your environment. Also, if you have a funny bone; if you grew up in a family with a sense of humor.”
Reiner’s son Rob also would go on to have a distinguished career as an actor, notably in the groundbreaking TV comedy All in the Family, and as a director of such films as When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men.
Reiner’s wife of 64 years, Estelle, died in 2008. Along with Rob and Annie, he is survived by a son Lucas, their children and their children’s children.