No One Finer Than Carl Reiner


PEAKING on videotape from his home in California, comedy writer Larry Gelbart said Carl Reiner doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. “In fact, he doesn’t have any bones in his body - he used them all up to make soup.”

The laughter at the second annual Alan King Award in American Jewish Humor, honoring Reiner, set the tone. The National Foundation for Jewish Culture sponsored the event at New York’s Pierre Hotel.

Carl Reiner flanked by Bill Persky
and Mary Tyler Moore

“Before you start the dinner,” Gelbart added, “let me say the traditional blessing: Baruch ata...melech haolam hamotzi lechem William Morris.”

That prompted the New York head of the William Morris Agency, Alan Kannof, to bring his 10-year-old son Seth up to make the authentic hamotzi, the blessing over the bread.

Seth, who’s in 10th grade, told me he makes kiddush and hamotzi every Friday night at home in Scarsdale.

Since his father is in the business, it is only natural that Seth has his heart set on being an actor or director.

Not yet, his mother insisted. He has to finish school first.

“Okay,” Seth told her. “But when I’m 22 – boom! Hollywood!”

Alan King (left) with Joseph Stein
and NFJC board member
Karen Gantz Zahler

Playwright Joe Stein, who wrote Fiddler on the Roof and Zorba among other classics, was depressed. His close friend, Joseph Heller, had died that day. Reiner called and persuaded Stein to come to the dinner.

Emcee Alan King said he’s been going to so many funerals lately, that when he drives in every Monday from Long Island to his Midtown office, he stops at Riverside Memorial Chapel just in case they couldn’t reach him over the weekend.

King said we didn’t have any humor in this country until the Jews arrived.

“There were no laughs when the British were here. They have no sense of humor. You don’t have funny people in Canada or Australia.”

To introduce a new generation of mirth, King presented Susie Essman and Gary Greenberg.

“I’m trying to start a Million Jew March,” Greenberg announced. “If they can have a Million Man March, we can have a Million Mensch March. My friends would say, why can’t we just take the car?”

When Reiner finally got his chance, he told how he wore a toupee on the Dick Van Dyke Show.

But not on the street. He said when you wear a toupee, someone inevitably comes up and asks, “Are you wearing a toupee?” You say no, and he says, “You know, you can’t tell.”

When his son Rob had Hillary Rodham Clinton over to the house, and then President Bill Clinton too, Carl said  “I shepped nachas [proud].”

“Could my father ever have had the opportunity to invite Eleanor Roosevelt over to our flat in Bronx?”

In Hollywood, Reiner said, Jewish moguls like to play a quiz they call “Who’s the Jew?”

“One of the biggest surprises was learning that Basil Rathbone went to a Sephardic synagogue in Manhattan. Now Mary Tyler Moore has found that one of her grandfathers was Jewish.”

“We can’t call you shiksah anymore,” he added as Moore smiled at her husband, Dr. Richard Levine.

“Mary is not only America’s sweetheart,” Reiner continued, “but the fulfillment of every Jewish mother’s dream of having her daughter marry a Jewish doctor.”


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