Carl Reiner

On this date in 1922, actor Carl Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York, to immigrant Jewish parents. The son of the son of a Romanian-born watchmaker and a Hungarian mother started his distinguished career in Broadway musicals after serving in the Pacific during World War II. Among his lifetime achievements in writing, directing, producing and acting for television and film, Reiner is perhaps most noted for creating, directing and frequently appearing on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-66).

He was cast in comedian Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" (1950-54), appearing in skits while also working alongside writers Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. He directed “Oh, God!” (1977), starring George Burns and directed and co-wrote four Steve Martin films: “The Jerk” (1979), “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (1982), “The Man With Two Brains” (1983) and “All of Me” (1984). In 2007, the Director’s Guild of America honored him with an Honorary Life Member award. Over his career he won nine prime-time Emmy Awards and a Grammy.

Reiner married Estelle Lebost in 1943 and they were married until her death at age 94 in 2008. Their children are Rob (b. 1947), Annie (b. 1949) and Lucas (b. 1960). Estelle delivered the line "I'll have what she's having" in the famous restaurant scene in Rob's 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally."

Reiner wrote 18 books, including five biography/memoirs (the last announced in 2017 when he was 95). At 97 he was still active on Twitter and still had his sense of humor, publishing an illustrated children's book in 2017 titled You Say God Bless You for Sneezing and Farting! "First thing in the morning, before I have coffee, I read the obits," he told CBS News in 2015. "If I'm not in it, I'll have breakfast."

Reiner called himself a Jewish atheist. "I have a very different take on who God is," he said in a 2008 Los Angeles Times interview. "Man invented God because he needed him. God is us."

He died of natural causes at age 98 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. D. 2020.

PHOTO (public domain): Reiner at age 38.

MOMENT: Have you always been an atheist?
REINER: I became an atheist after Hitler came. I said, what is this? If there was a God, would he not be hearing 18 million people, 16 million Jews, or 20 million other people, saying,"Please God, don’t do this, make him stop?" God was so busy doing what? Striping zebras or fixing the long necks of giraffes?

—Interview, Moment magazine, founded by Elie Wiesel (May 1, 2013)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch and Bill Dunn

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement