Carl Reiner was born in The Bronx, New York, on March 20, 1922, to Irving, a watchmaker, and Bessie (née Mathias) Reiner.
At 21, he was drafted into the Army Air Forces and served during World War II, eventually achieving the rank of corporal. After spending three months in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, he was sent to Georgetown University for ten months of training as a French interpreter,although he had initially trained as a radio operator; it was here that he had his first experience as a director, putting on a Molière play entirely in French.
After completing language training in 1944, Reiner was sent to Hawaii to work as a teleprinter operator. Before leaving for a scheduled unknown assignment,he attended a production of Hamlet by the Special Services entertainment unit.
After an audition for actor and Major Maurice Evans, he was subsequently transferred to Special Services and for the next two years, Reiner performed around the Pacific theater, entertaining troops in Hawaii,Saipan,Iwo Jima and Guam until his honorably discharged in 1946.
Reiner performed in several Broadway musicals. In 1950, he was cast by 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.
In 1960, he teamed up with Brooks as a comedy duo on The Steve Allen Show. Their performances on television and stage included Reiner playing the straight man in 2000 Year Old Man and eventually, the routine expanded into a series of 5 comedy albums and a 1975 animated television special, with the last album in the series winning a Grammy Award for Spoken Comedy Album.
In 1959, Reiner had developed a television pilot titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not want him to take up the lead role and so in 1961, it was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show becoming an iconic series. Reiner began his directing career on this show.
The series ran from 1961-1966 and after it ended its run, his first film feature was an adaptation of Joseph Stein’s play Enter Laughing (1967),based on Reiner’s semi-autobiographical 1958 novel of the same name.
Other films from his early directing career include Where’s Poppa? (1970), Oh, God! (1977), and The Jerk (1979).
In 2000, Reiner was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center, where he was celebrated by fellow friends and comedians, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore and Steve Martin just to name a few.
In 2001, he portrayed Saul Bloom in Ocean’s Eleven, Steven Soderbergh’s remake of 1960’s Ocean’s 11, and later reprised the role in Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007). From 2004 to 2005, Reiner voiced Sarmoti in Father of the Pride.
Reiner was also an author and has written several books including his 2004 memoir My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir and novels, and his 2006 novel NNNNN: A Novel.
In May 2009, he guest-starred as a clinic patient on the season finale of House. Reiner also voiced Santa in Merry Madagascar and reprised his role in the Penguins of Madagascar episode The All Nighter Before Christmas.
In December 2009, he guest-starred as a television producer Marty Pepper on Two and a Half Men. He also made appearances in The Cleveland Show as Murray and wrote the story for the episode Your Show of Shows.
On December 24, 1943, Reiner married singer Estelle Lebost and the two were married for 64 years until her death on October 25 2008 at age 94.
Reiner died at his home on June 29, 2020, aged 98, in the company of his family. He is survived by Rob Reiner (1947),poet playwright and author Annie Reiner (1949) and painter,actor and director Lucas Reiner (1960)