Listening to one the more haunting melodies from Morrissey’s solo career, “Hold On To Your Friends,” my thoughts of course turned to Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. (Does listening to Morrissey ever fail to make you think about Brooks and Reiner?) Morrissey gives good advice, but anyone who knows me will know how ironic it is that I would offer such advice. To imagine me with strangers, think of your dog when the mailman arrives. I listened to separate interviews with the two comedy legends this past week, and they gave me a vivid sense of what I may be missing.
Carl Reiner is 90, Mel Brooks is 86. They met circa 1950 when they were both writers on “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar. Both are now widowers; Brooks’ wife of 44 years, Anne Bancroft, died in 2005, and Reiner’s wife Estelle, whom he married in 1943, died in 2008. Roughly 63 years after meeting at work, they still have each other, and the two still spend many nights together every week, about three hours of dinner, television and word play unique to their comic minds.
The interviewer, comedian Marc Maron, told a funny story about the two. While he chatted with Brooks after his interview, Brooks suggested he interview Reiner and agreed to set it up. Maron asked how Carl was doing, and Brooks said, “He’s about 80%.” Maron later interviewed Reiner, who had several brief phone calls during the interview. After the interview, the phone rang again. Maron heard Reiner say to the caller, “No, it went very well…sure, here he is.” Reiner handed the phone to him and said, “It’s Mel.” Maron said “Hello?” and that unmistakable voice on the phone on the other end said, “80%, right? Right?”
There’s an unorthodox declaration of love buried in that question. In Jerry Seinfeld’s webcast series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Seinfeld took Reiner out to breakfast, and Reiner described their nightly ritual–3 hours of tv, including a taped episode of Jeopardy. Later, Reiner invited Seinfeld over, and sure enough, Brooks arrived at about 8.
Not only should we all live so long, we should have the ones we love around us just as long. Carl Reiner outlines more details of their relationship in his new anecdotal memoir, I Remember Me, which is an entertaining read