Carl Reiner

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Carl Reiner
Reiner speaking at a ceremony for Mel Brooks to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 23, 2010
Born (1922-03-20) March 20, 1922 (age 92)
The Bronx, New York, US
Spouse Estelle Reiner (1943–2008; her death)
Children Rob Reiner
Lucas Reiner (sons)
Annie Reiner (daughter)

Carl Reiner (born March 20, 1922)[1] is an American stand-up comedian, actor, director, producer, writer and voice artist. He has won 12 Emmy Awards[2] and one Grammy Award during his career.

Early life[edit]

Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York on March 20, 1922, the son of Irving, who was a watchmaker, and Bessie (née Mathias) Reiner.[3] His parents were Jewish immigrants, his father from Romania and his mother from Austria.[4] His father, a watchmaker and inventor, was 5 foot 3 inches tall, his mother was 5 foot 2, yet Carl grew to be 6 foot 1. His brother Charlie served in the 9th Division's 37th Infantry at 11 major World War II battles and had his ashes buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[5][6] When he was sixteen, his older brother Charlie read in the New York Daily News about a free dramatic workshop being put on by the Works Progress Administration and told him about it. His uncle, Harry Mathias, was the first entertainer in his family.[7] He had been working as a machinist repairing sewing machines. He credits Charlie with changing his career plans.[8]


Reiner at the Emmy Awards in September 1989

Reiner performed in several Broadway musicals, including Inside U.S.A., and Alive and Kicking, and had the lead role in Call Me Mister. In 1950, he was cast by producer Max Leibman in Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, appearing on air in skits while also working alongside writers such as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. He also worked on Caesar's Hour with Brooks, Simon, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin, Mike Stewart, Aaron Ruben, Sheldon Keller and Gary Belkin.

Starting in 1960, on The Steve Allen Show, Reiner teamed with Mel Brooks as a comedy duo. Their performances on stage and television included Reiner playing the straight man to Brooks' 2000 Year Old Man character. The routine eventually expanded into a series of five comedy albums and a 1975 animated TV special.

In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot, Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network didn't like Reiner in the lead role. In 1961, it was recast and retitled The Dick Van Dyke Show, and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. In addition to writing many of the episodes, Reiner occasionally appeared as temperamental show host "Alan Brady", who ruthlessly browbeats his brother-in-law (played by Richard Deacon). The show ran from 1961 to 1966. In 1966, he co-starred in the Norman Jewison film The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.

Reiner began his directing career on the Van Dyke show. After that show ended its run, Reiner's first film feature was an adaptation of Joseph Stein's play Enter Laughing (1967), which in turn was based on Reiner's semi-autobiographical 1958 novel of the same name. Balancing writing, directing, producing, and acting, Reiner has worked on a wide range of films and television programs. Films from his early directing career included the cult comedy Where's Poppa? (1970), starring George Segal and Ruth Gordon, Oh, God! (1977) with George Burns, and The Jerk (1979) with Steve Martin.

Reiner played a large role in the early career of Steve Martin, by directing and co-writing four films for the comedian: The Jerk in 1979, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid in 1982, The Man with Two Brains in 1983, and All of Me in 1984. Reiner also appeared in both The Jerk and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

Reiner with Goldie Hawn in 1970

In 1989, he directed Bert Rigby, You're a Fool. In 1990 he narrated the Grimm children's story "The Musicians of Bremen" (music by Bernard Rogers) for a CD of classical music for children. In 2000, Reiner was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. A year later, he played thief and con man Saul Bloom in Steven Soderbergh's remake of Ocean's Eleven and has reprised that role in its sequels, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen. In 2004, Reiner voiced Sarmoti in Father of the Pride.

Reiner is the author of several books, including his 2004 memoir, My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir, and novels such as 2006's NNNNN: A Novel. In American Film, Reiner 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."

In May 2009, he guest-starred as a clinic patient on the season finale of House. Reiner also lent his voice to the character of Santa Claus in the NBC Christmas special Merry Madagascar in November 2009 and reprised his role as Santa in The Penguins of Madagascar holiday special "The All Nighter Before Christmas. In December 2009, Reiner guest-starred as a television producer on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. In June 2010, Reiner guest starred in TV Land's new series "Hot in Cleveland" as Elka Ostrovsky's date and reprised the role in July 2010. Reiner also made appearances on The Cleveland Show as Murray and wrote the story for the episode "Your Show of Shows", named after the program that started his career.

Reiner reprised his role on Two and a Half Men in October 2013 and once more in January 2014.

Personal life[edit]

Reiner on the set of Good Heavens in 1976

On December 24, 1943, Reiner married singer Estelle Lebost. The two were married 64 years until her death in 2008. At the time of the marriage, Reiner was 21 and she was 29. Estelle delivered the line "I'll have what she's having" in the deli scene of their son Rob's 1989 film When Harry Met Sally.[1] She died on October 25, 2008, at age 94.[9]

Reiner is the father of actor and director Rob Reiner (b. 1947), poet, playwright and author Sylvia Anne (Annie) Reiner (b. 1949), and painter,[10] actor, and director Lucas Reiner (b. 1960).[1][11]

Reiner has described himself as a Jewish atheist.[4] He says, "I have a very different take on who God is. Man invented God because he needed him. God is us."[12][13]


  • Enter Laughing (1958)
  • 2000 Years With: Carl Reiner & Mel Brooks (with Mel Brooks, 1960)
  • All Kinds of Love (1993)
  • Continue Laughing (1995)
  • How Paul Robeson Saved My Life (and Other Mostly Happy Stories) (1999)
  • The 2000 Year-Old Man in the Year 2000: The Book (1999)
  • My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir (2003)
  • NNNNN: A Novel (2006)
  • Tell Me Another Scary Story... But Not Too Scary! (with James Bennett) (2009)
  • Just Desserts: A Novellelah (2009)
  • Tell Me a Silly Story (with James Bennett) (2010)
  • I Remember Me (2012)
  • I Just Remembered! (2014)

As screenwriter[edit]

As director[edit]



Acting credits[edit]



Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6421 Hollywood Blvd

Primetime Emmy Awards[edit]

  • 1954: Best Series Supporting Actor for "Your Show of Shows" NBC – Nominee
  • 1956: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for "Caesar's Hour" NBC – Nominee
  • 1957: Best Supporting Performance by an Actor for Caesar's Hour NBC – Winner
  • 1958: Best Continuing Supporting Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic or Comedy Series for Caesar's Hour NBC – Winner
  • 1962: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy for The Dick Van Dyke Show CBS – Winner
  • 1963: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy for The Dick Van Dyke Show CBS – Winner
  • 1964: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy or Variety for The Dick Van Dyke Show (Shared with Sam Denoff and Bill Persky)CBS – Winner
  • 1965: Outstanding Program Achievements in Entertainment for The Dick Van Dyke Show CBS – Winner
  • 1966: Special Classifications of Individual Achievements for voices in "Linus The Lionhearted" CBS – Nominee
  • 1966: Outstanding Comedy Series for The Dick Van Dyke Show CBS – Winner
  • 1967: Outstanding Writing Achievement in Variety for The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris Special (Shared with Mel Brooks, Sam Denoff, Bill Persky and Mel Tolkin) CBS – Winner
  • 1995: Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for Mad About You: "The Alan Brady Show" NBC – Winner[14]



  1. ^ a b c St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press, (2000)
  2. ^ "My Father's Day Conversation With Carl and Rob Reiner". 2014-06-13. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  3. ^ Carl Reiner Biography (1922–)
  4. ^ a b Tom, Tugend (June 15, 2008). "Reiners honored by Israeli film fest". The Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved July 21, 2009. 
  5. ^ Reiner, Carl (June 3, 2014). Norm Macdonald Live. Interview with Norm Macdonald. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Ed McMahon heads for Times Square". 2001-04-25. Retrieved 2013-07-23. 
  7. ^ Lynda Gorov (2013) Funnyman Carl Reiner Moment Magazine
  8. ^ Susan King, Los Angeles Times, Feb 27, (2001) pg. F.5
  9. ^ Estelle Reiner dies at 94
  10. ^ ART REVIEWS; David Pagel, Los Angeles Times, Oct 12, (1995) pg. 4
  11. ^ Lucas Reiner at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ King, Susan (October 21, 2009). "Carl Reiner's big break". LA Times. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  13. ^ Waldron, Vince (1994). The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book. New York: Applause. p. 23. ISBN 1-55783-453-9. 
  14. ^ "Primetime Emmy Awards". Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Television Hall of Fame Honorees: Complete List". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, (2007).

External links[edit]