CARL REINER

Over this past weekend we lost one of the funniest and most versatile entertainers of the last 60+ years.  He was renowned as a comedian, actor, director, screenwriter and writer.  He made us laugh and entertained us for seven decades.  He was associated with some of the most iconic tv shows and comedy routines of his day.

Carl Reiner was born on March 20, 1923 in the Bronx, NY.  His parents were immigrants.  His father, a watchmaker, was from Austria; his mother was from Rumania.  He had an older brother, Charlie, who, though not associated with the entertainment business, played a small, but significant role in his life.

At the age of 16 Carl was working as a machinist when Charlie told him about a free drama workshop that was being sponsored by the Works Progress Administration and convinced him to try it.  That turned out to be a lifechanging decision, and Carl always credited Charlie with changing the course of his life and, as we shall see, entertainment history.

Carl attended Georgetown University until he was drafted into the Army in 1943.  At first, he worked as a French interpreter and a teleprinter operator.  Eventually, however, he was assigned to Special Services whose job was to entertain soldiers stationed overseas.  For once, the Army, much mocked for trying to cram square pegs into round holes, got it right.

After his discharge Carl, like most would-be entertainers, bounced around for a while from one nondescript job to another.  Finally, in 1950 he got his big break when he was cast as a comic actor on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows.  For the benefit of those of you under the age of 75 Caesar was one of the most successful entertainers in the early years of tv, and “YSOS” was a huge hit.   Carl got to showcase his comedic talents by appearing in various skits on live tv.  He won Emmys in 1955 and 1956 for Best Supporting Actor.

In the mid-1950s he became a comedy writer for another Caesar show, Caesar’s Hour.  During this time he worked alongside some of the greatest comedy writers of the day such as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon, each of whom was to become famous in his own right.

Carl and Brooks became a very successful comedy duo.  Starting in 1960 they appeared together on the Steve Allen Show.  During this time they developed the famous comedy routine, the 2000 Year Old Man.  Brooks played the oldie, and Carl was the straight man.  It was hilarious.  If you have never seen it I recommend you find it on U-Tube.  The routine won them a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Comedy Album.  Additionally, the routine gave a huge boost to both of their careers.  Brooks’ biographer, William Holtzman, called the routine “an ingenuous jazz improvisation.”

Carl’s next big project was probably my personal favorite.  In 1958 he had written a television comedy series, starring himself, named Head of the Family, which was loosely based on his own life.  The network did not pick it up, supposedly because it did not like Carl in the lead role.  However, in 1961 the show was recast with a young up-and-coming comedian named Dick Van Dyke in the lead role supported by a young, sexy former dancer, Mary Tyler Moore, as his wife, and veteran comedians Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie.  It was about a group of comedy writers, headed by Van Dyke, who wrote for a crusty, temperamental comedian played by, you guessed it, Carl Reiner.  The show was a huge hit.  It ran from 1961 – 1966 and syndicated for many years thereafter.  When I was in college we watched the show every day at 11:30 partly because it was so funny and partly to gawk at the sexy Moore. I highly recommend this show as well.

In his long career Carl wrote, directed and/or acted in dozens of movies and tv productions, too many to name here.  For me, the best movies were The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966), Oh God (1977), and The Jerk (1979).  Along the way he mentored many other comedians, such as Steve Martin, who starred in the Jerk.  Perhaps, my favorite tv show on which he appeared was The Carol Burnett Show, a hugely popular program that starred Burnet, Harvey Korman and Tim Conway in some of the funniest skits you will ever see on tv.

In an interview in 1981 Carl shared his philosophy on comedy writing, “you have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary … very normal.  … If it makes you laugh, it’s going to make everybody laugh.”  Although Carl was Jewish he was not the least bit religious.  In fact, he described himself as a “Jewish atheist.”

CONCLUSION

Unlike most entertainers, Carl enjoyed a very stable home life.  He was married to the same person, former singer Estelle Lebost, for 64 years.  In addition, one of his sons, Rob, is a successful actor (“meathead” in All in the Family) and director (When Harry Met Sally) in his own right.  The other son, Lucas, is an actor and director; and his daughter, Annie,  is a poet, playwright and author.  Some of you may recall that Estelle appeared in one scene in When Harry Met Sally and got to utter one of the funniest lines in movie history: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Among his many awards Carl won 11 Emmys, one Grammy and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.  Moreover, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999, and he has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In 2017 he and his son, Rob, became the first father-son duo to have their footprints and handprints placed on a concrete slab at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Carl passed away on June 29 at the ripe old age of 98.  He went out the way we should all go, at home, surrounded by his family.  Rest in peace, Carl.  You made us laugh and entertained us for seven decades.  You will be sorely missed, but your work will live forever.

OKAY FOR ME, BUT NOT FOR THEE

This would be humorous if it weren’t so outrageous.  The elites, which I define as a group that includes the country’s political leaders, journalists, business leaders, the wealthy, and the Hollywood crowd, among others, love to lecture the rest of us repeatedly that we must sacrifice and do without for the greater good while they ignore their own advice and do what they want, when they want.  They exhibit a profound sense of entitlement that somehow the rules of society that we are required to follow do not apply to them.

This is not exclusively a Dem or a progressive phenomenon.  People of all political philosophies on both sides of the aisle are guilty of this.  The common thread is that timeworn expression, “do as I say, not as I do.”

There are many examples of this.  I will list a few to make my point.  You will likely be able to think of others.

  1. The elites tell us that climate change is our biggest threat.  Some have gone so far as to characterize it as an “existential threat.”  Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, exhibiting a lack of knowledge of history as well as common sense, has called it “our WWII.”  Right.  It may be a threat, one of many we are facing presently.  We can debate that.  But, our biggest?   Not even close.   Comparing it to WWII with the Holocaust and the loss of millions of lives, is hardly appropriate or accurate.  Either she is stupid, or she thinks the voters are.
  2.  We have been admonished that we have to reduce our carbon footprint to “save the planet.”  Among other things, we must give up our cars, our use of fossil fuels, and, in some cases, our jobs.  How are we supposed to support our families?  Several prominent Dems have made idiotic statements that former coal miners, for example, could just retrain themselves to be computer analysts.  Yeah, right.  Easy for them to say.  They will not be giving up their jobs or sacrificing anything.  They plan on retaining their current lifestyle at the expense of the rest of us.  Okay for me, but not for thee.
  3. The poster boy for this lunacy is the preposterous “Green New Deal.”  The elites plan on continuing to enjoy their perks, such as travelling by motorcade and flying on private jets or first class, while the rest of us return to bicycles and walking.  Anyone living in a rural area will be sc***ed.  Anyone who is not ambulatory will just have to stay home.   Sacrifices will have to made for the greater good.   Okay for me, but not for thee.
  4.  It has become fashionable to advocate for defunding police forces.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the end result will be either a delayed police response or no police response.  We are already beginning to see this in some areas.  The politicians behind this movement, like Pelosi, Schumer, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio, and the mayor and the members of the city council in Minneapolis to name a few, mostly live in gated communities and maintain their own private security often at taxpayer expense.  How ironic is it that the very people who are pressing this issue would not be affected by it.  They will remain safe and secure.  For the vast majority of people if someone breaks into your house or hijacks your car or accosts you on the street, good luck.  Many of us remember the harrowing experience of a Virginia woman who was recently trapped in her car with an infant as an angry mob threatened them.  She called 911, but the police could not or would not respond.  It is hard to imagine a more frightening experience. Okay for me, but not for thee.
  5. This cry for defunding is coming on the heels of the anti-gun people making it more difficult for normal citizens to acquire guns and the no-bail laws that have been instituted in many jurisdictions.  So, let me get this straight.  It will harder to acquire the wherewithal to protect yourself; when you call 911 there will be a delayed or no response; and the criminal, if caught, will be let out of jail the same day.  Nice.  Okay for me, but not for thee.
  6. Chris Cuomo, a CNN anchor and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s brother, contracted the Coronavirus a couple of months ago.  Protocol required him to self-quarantine for two weeks.  One day, he broke quarantine to go to Central Park.  A passerby recognized him, filmed him, and asked him why he had broken quarantine.  Cuomo became incensed and berated the man on camera.  Okay for me, but not for thee.
  7. In the early stages of the CV people were generally confined to their homes.  Yet, NYC Mayor De Blasio found it necessary to travel to his gym in Brooklyn every day with a motorized escort.  No sheltering in place for him.  No observance of Green New Deal guidelines for him.  No sir.  Afterall, the man has to maintain his buff physique.  Ha ha.  Okay for me, but not for thee.
  8.  Despite stay-at-home restrictions that were in place for Chicagoans Mayor Lori Lightfoot went out for a haircut.  The salons were required to be closed, but apparently, not for her.  At a press conference she brazenly and unapologetically defended her actions.  She told reporters that she needed a haircut and wanted it because she cares about her appearance.  Moreover, she said, as mayor, she represents the city and has to “look good.”  I’m sure there are thousands of other women who care about their appearance and also wanted haircuts, manicures and other body maintenance to “look good,” but they had to do without.  Again, okay for me but not for thee.
  9.  Many governors instituted extremely harsh, arbitrary and inane restrictions under the guise of combatting corona.  Of course, we know that this was as much about wielding power as about protecting against corona.  For example, a man was arrested for having a “catch” with his daughter in a public park; religious services were banned, even on Easter Sunday; several small business owners who tried to open their businesses safely in order to earn a few dollars were fined or arrested; and people were forbidden to go to their own vacation homes or visit relatives, who, in some cases, were isolated and in need of care.  Yet, one could purchase lotto tickets, liquor and marijuana or get an abortion.  Like I said, arbitrary and inane.  Okay for me but not for thee.
  10. Regarding the recent protests and rioting over the past few weeks many Governors have ignored their own rules regarding social distancing and wearing masks.  Some of them even joined in the protests.  Then, those same governors criticized President Trump and his supporters for ignoring those same rules at his recent rally.  Okay for me, but not for thee.

CONCLUSION

The American people are not stupid.  They can see that not everyone is sacrificing equally.   Many of them have sacrificed considerably in the last several months, giving up their jobs and their businesses, going into debt, and not seeing parents and grandchildren.  Many of them are fed up with what they see as a lack of fairness.   They can see that there are separate sets of rules for a few select people.

They blame the politicians, and rightly so.  They feel betrayed.  We elected these politicians to represent us, to protect us, and to have our best interests at heart.  Right now, they feel frightened and betrayed.   Our representatives are failing us.  They seem to be paralyzed.  They are standing by while a small, aggressive minority with extreme beliefs is taking control of the country.  Luckily, this is an election year.  Hopefully, the voters will speak loudly and clearly on Election Day.