Montecito star Carol Burnett praises actor, writer and director
Carl Reiner could make just about anything funny.
Even being bald.
On “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-66), Mr. Reiner was wonderfully temperamental as fictional TV star Alan Brady, whose toupee-wearing secret gets out in one episode thanks to a slip by Laura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore).
In the end, Alan forgives her as Mr. Reiner showed his knack for blending a hard exterior with a soft heart and comedy with a touch of drama.
The Bronx native, who was born March 20, 1922, left the world his legacy as an actor who stood out on Sid Caesar’s “Your Shows of Shows” in TV’s golden age and later made a studio audience laugh on Montecito star Carol Burnett’s variety show.
Mr. Reiner, a producer, writer, actor and director, died Monday at age 98 in his home in Beverly Hills.
“Last night my dad passed away,” his son, actor and director Rob Reiner, wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”
Carl Reiner was well-respected in Hollywood, and Ms. Burnett praised him for his talent.
“Carl did it all,” Ms. Burnett told the News-Press Tuesday. “Versatile beyond belief, he was a consummate comedic actor, a brilliant director and a prolific writer.
“I always loved it when he came on my show, knowing that we were in for a wonderful and laugh-filled week,” she said. “In short, I adored him.”
Mr. Reiner played a variety of characters and even sang on “The Carol Burnett Show” (1967-78). He dramatically showed his vocal chops as a store owner whose candy was stolen by young girls played by Ms. Burnett and guest star Melba Moore.
Before “The Carol Burnett Show,” Mr. Reiner showed his talent for playing a straight man. He was the reporter who interviewed “Your Show of Shows” writer Mel Brooks, who portrayed the 2,000-Year Old Man in a famous comic routine.
Mr. Reiner was also known for his double-talk in various languages as he played the sidekick to Mr. Caesar, who clowned around with accents.
After “Your Show of Shows,” Mr. Reiner planned to create a sitcom starring himself. But after the pilot of “The Head of the Family” was filmed, something didn’t feel quite right to producer Sheldon Leonard.
He told Mr. Reiner he should get another actor to play the character of a TV comedy writer. That led to Dick Van Dyke being cast as Rob Petrie, the head writer for “The Alan Brady Show,” and that’s how Mr. Reiner created “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Mr. Reiner, who worked behind the scenes for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” as a producer and writer, appeared occasionally as Alan, who was hilarious when he was angry.
Mr. Reiner repeatedly demonstrated that comedy is the art of taking things very seriously — to hilarious proportions. That certainly was true in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!” (1966). He portrayed Walt Whittaker, who has to deal with Russians who arrive in a submarine and suddenly show up at his doorstep.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Reiner focused on directing movies, including four starring Santa Barbara actor Steve Martin (“The Jerk” in 1979, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” in 1982, “All of Me,” “The Man with Two Brains” in 1983 and “All of Me” in 1984.)
Mr. Reiner went on to guest star in sitcoms such as “Mad About You” (1992-99), in which he reprised his Alan Brady character. And his commitment to his characters continued right up to his recurring role as the irrepressible Marty Pepper on the sitcom “Two and A Half Men” (2003 to 2015).
Mr. Reiner also continued to grace the big screen. In the 2001 “Ocean’s Eleven” remake, Mr. Reiner resonated with a new generation of fans as Saul Bloom, an experienced thief/con artist who doesn’t tolerate fools. He reprised the role in sequels.
Whatever the part, Mr. Reiner embraced his characters and handled them with complete seriousness.
No wonder he was so funny.