As a comedian, an entertainer, and a human being, Carl Reiner created an indelible legacy. The Hollywood legend died of natural causes Monday, at the age of 98. He is survived by his son, activist and director Rob Reiner, as well as his daughter, Sylvia Ann, and his son, Lucas. And by his best friend, Mel Brooks, who would visit almost every night to watch Jeopardy! and talk about the world. And by a staggering list of collaborators, including Dick Van Dyke, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, George Clooney, and so many more. And, of course, Reiner is survived by millions of fans—who loved him for his work, his firecracker social media presence, and above all his humanity.
“Last night my dad passed away,” Rob Reiner wrote Tuesday morning. “As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”
In 2017, after becoming the first father-son duo to plant their hands and feet in cement outside the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, Rob Reiner thought about what his father had meant to him growing up.
“My father was my idol,” he said at the time. “I looked up to him. He stood for everything I wanted to be in life... I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Now I literally followed in his footsteps.”
Reiner’s immense career spanned decades; he won multiple Emmys as a regular cast member on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows before creating The Dick Van Dyke Show, a CBS ratings hit that cemented the promise of the sitcom genre. He also directed several hit films, including several Steve Martin vehicles like The Jerk. And then there were multiple books, his delightfully candid Twitter account, a documentary about busy nonagenarians, and so much more.
Reiner’s longtime friend Alan Alda responded to news of Reiner’s passing with a tribute of his own. “My friend Carl Reiner died last night,” he wrote. “His talent will live on for a long time, but the loss of his kindness and decency leaves a hole in our hearts. We love you, Carl.”
“Very sad to awake to the news that @carlreiner has passed,” added Ed Asner. “There will forever only be one of him. May his memory be forever blessed. He leaves us with so much laughter. My heart goes out to @robreiner and the entire Reiner family.”
Among Reiner’s beloved late-career appearances was his role as Saul Bloom in George Clooney’s Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Remembering Reiner in a statement provided to The Daily Beast, Clooney wrote, “Carl Reiner made every room he walked into funnier, smarter, kinder. It all seemed so effortless. What an incredible gift he gave us all. His was a life well lived and we’re all the better for it. Rest in peace my friend.”
Clooney is just one of many Reiner collaborators sharing fond remembrances.
Bernadette Peters, who starred alongside Martin in The Jerk, shared a tribute on Twitter, as did Bette Midler, who played Lilly Leonard in his 1997 rom-com That Old Feeling.
“The great #CarlReiner has gone to that Show of Shows in the sky,” Midler wrote. “ I worked with him, loved him, and consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to have once attended lunch with his hilarious, garrulous gang...”
Amber Tamblyn, who appeared with Reiner in a season of CBS’ Two and a Half Men, shared a photo from the set, writing, “We will miss you, Carl. You were a gift to this world.”
Among Reiner’s most meaningful relationships, however, was his friendship with fellow comedy master Mel Brooks. The two have been friends for more than 70 years—a journey that has been documented not only on screen, but also in multiple delightfully warm joint interviews over the years.
Speaking with The New York Times in 2009, the two explained how they choose movies to watch together:
“We look for movies with the line ‘Secure the perimeter,’” Reiner said.
Added Brooks, “Yeah, we like movies that say, ‘Secure the perimeter’ and/or ‘You better get some rest.’”
Reiner: “Lock all doors!”
Brooks: “I want a five-block seal!”
And just months ago, this February, The Guardian reunited with the two in Reiner’s home—an abode absolutely covered, the paper reported, in family photos. The two discussed their lives together, their late wives, and their new routine: nightly viewings of Jeopardy!
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a better friend than Carl,” Brooks said.
“My God, the thought of being without him—the world would be too bleak!” said Reiner. Reporter Hadley Freeman noted that at that moment, Brooks’ face appeared to fall.
The tributes to Reiner all seem to point to two qualities: his incomparable humor and his humanity.
Sarah Silverman wrote, “Not only did he make my favorite TV & movies (see: Where’s Poppa) but his humanity was beyond compare. His heart was so full of love. Never left his house empty handed- book, space pen, Swiss Army knife. RIP to a man that embodies the word mensch.”
Added William Shatner, “From the writers room of Sid Caesar to recreating those times for the Dick Van Dyke show, Carl was a master at his craft. I knew him only peripherally but it was a pleasure to have known him.”
Journalist Jesse Thorn, who hosts NPR’s Bullseye podcast, noted that when he interviewed Reiner in his home, Reiner brought him upstairs to his office to share some family photo albums. “One of the best things that ever happened to me,” Thorn wrote.
The Simpsons actor Harry Shearer wrote, “I got to know him a bit, not that long after he had made the first great TV show about TV. Legendarily funny, but, fortunately, not ‘always on’. Wrote, acted, directed. Did it all, except trumpet.”
And then there was Jon Cryer, who served as Reiner’s substitute as Director’s Guild Award Host in 2009 when “his health forced him to take the night off,” as Cryer recalled as he shared the note Reiner sent him.
“Dear Jon,” Reiner wrote. “I thank you for filling in for me tonight. I wish with all my heart that you fail, or if you don’t, that you are no more than adequate. I don’t want to have to compete with you for this non-paying job.” He signed the note, “Carl Reiner, For 22 years, the best host the DGA ever had.”