Carl Reiner admits that a few years ago, he got the bejeebees scared out of him.
The 95-year-old comedy icon explains in HBO’s upcoming documentary If You’re
Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast that he was reading the newspaper, as he does every morning. “Before having breakfast, I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section and see if I’m listed,” he jokes in the film. “If I’m
not, I’ll have my breakfast.”
One day, though, Reiner actually was in the obits, in a manner of speaking. When actress Polly Bergen died at 84 in 2014,
the newspaper Reiner was reading published a huge photo of him with Bergen at the 1958 Emmy Awards with her obituary. He began thinking about why some of his friends passed away years ago and why others are still thriving in their 90s. “Was it luck,
genes, modern medicine or are we doing something right?” he wondered.
This spurred the idea for the documentary, produced by Reiner’s nephew George Shapiro (who is also
Reiner’s manager) and directed by Danny Gold. Reiner serves as host and talks with many of his nonagenarian friends such as Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Betty White, Kirk Douglas and many others. There are also interviews with Stan Lee, Dick Van Dyke and
many other people who are amazing in their 90s or even 100s, even if they aren’t household names.
What keeps me going at 95 is the things in my head that I
have to get out of my head. I don’t want them whirling in there, so I write.
— Carl Reiner
Reiner: Just Getting Started
The documentary’s opening song, The Best is Yet to Come, is sung by Tony Bennett, 90, and an original song, Just Getting Started,
is performed and co-co-written by Alan Bergman, also 90.
Viewers will also meet Ida Keeling, 101, an American track and field athlete; Tao Porchon-Lynch, 98, who is still a yoga teacher
and has done yoga since she was a child and Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, 95, who fought in D-Day and, you’ll see, still sky dives.
One of the younger set in the film, comedian
Jerry Seinfeld, has decided that he is going to live to at least 100. In fact, he’s so sure of it that he has reserved the stage at Caesars Palace for his 100th birthday on April 29, 2054.
What’s Reiner’s secret to his longevity?
“What keeps me going at 95 is the things in my head that I have to get out of my head. I don’t want them whirling in there,
so I write,” Reiner explains. Since he turned 90, Reiner has written a book a year, and he’s currently working on two more. His most recently released book, Too Busy to Die, begins with his first acting gig — he was 6 years
old when he performed at P.S. 92’s production of Six Who Pass While the Lentils Boil. He has written three memoirs about growing up in the Bronx and has got a lot more in him.
Staying Active at Any Age
Reiner says that if you want to keep your vitality, have something in your life that keeps you wanting to get up in the morning.
“If you have something to do, anything, whatever it is, [do it]!” he says. Reiner recommends that you write — even if the only thing you’ve ever previously written is a letter.
“Just putting words down on paper about things that mean things to you. I suggest writing as a way to stay connected to yourself and to the world,” he says. “Everybody likes to know of other people’s feelings and experiences about whatever.”
Even if you don’t think you will ever publish your writing, Reiner says, do it anyway. “If you please yourself, you may very well also please somebody else,” he notes.
Besides writing, Reiner says, “The thing that tickles me most now is I’m reliving my life through television, watching things that I remember loving, and watching them again — getting
the same pleasure out of them.” (If you’re wondering what his favorite movies are, they’re Random Harvest, The Count of Monte Cristo andThe Princess Bride, directed by his son, Rob Reiner.)
One of Reiner’s television shows that has held up over the years also happens to be his favorite — The Dick Van Dyke Show. Originally, the show was called Head of the
Family and was based on Reiner’s career working as a TV writer. Reiner wrote 13 episodes. But after they shot the pilot, starring Reiner, the project was dropped. Reiner went on writing other projects and says that he forgot about the show.
His agent at the time, though, didn’t. “I was called into Sheldon Leonard’s office. He was a producer at the time. My agent was upset that these 13 episodes were lying on his desk and
he hadn’t gotten any money for them,” recalls Reiner. “He gave them to Sheldon, and Sheldon said, ‘I love these scripts.’ I said, ‘Sheldon, I don’t want to fail with the same material twice.’ He said, ‘You
won’t fail. I’ll get a better actor to play you.’ He suggested Dick Van Dyke. I went to New York and saw him in Bye Bye Birdie and I saw the single most talented man I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Reiner also talked about his late wife, Estelle. She passed at age 94, but didn’t start working as a jazz singer until turning 60. “She recorded 127 songs on seven albums,” says Reiner.
“She went and played in clubs from the time she was 60 until she was 94. She did full concerts!”
What Reiner Has Learned About Life
Like her, Reiner shows no sign of slowing down. This past spring, he and Rob put their hand and footprints in cement together at TCL Chinese Theater (formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater). Reiner says that while Kirk and
son Michael Douglas have their prints there, he and Rob are the first father-son filmmaking team to have put their prints in at the same time.
Over all his years in comedy and life,
what has Reiner learned?
“Don’t take things for granted. You’re smarter than you think. Be yourself — that’s all you can be, and you’re not different than they
are,” says Reiner. “We’re all the same!”
The new HBO documentary If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast, hosted by Reiner, debuts on HBO on Monday June 5 at 8 p.m. ET.
I MISSED THIS, I WILL TRY TO SEE IF IT CAN BE FOUND ON DEMAND
I like his advice..keep your head full of interesting things every day...read, write, learn something new..
I'm working on staying active and involved..I enjoy reading good Christian Mystery novels. In the last two years, I taught my self how to crochet and have crocheted many hats for hospitals, street
missions, etc. I learned how to take some good photo's and do my own greeting cards using my original photo's with embellishments. I've sold a few here and there at a craft fair or two.. Looking forward to the Farmers market again this summer, where
I hope to offer some of my knit necklaces and looking into what else I could create and sell..I enjoy the people that come to the farmers markets..and I've met many other wonderful and talented vendors.. I will be 86 this July..the only thing that is slowing
me down at this time, is a problem with my knee and that enemy Arthritis, today the Doctor told me she feels most of the knee pain is coming from some stressed muscles leading down to the knee..??? 2 years ago I went to see a doctor about the pain in my knee,
she said it was due to a sprained tendon...???? well, it just kept getting worse..I went through a series of shots, 'many, many shots..x-ray's, MRI's and was getting different stories from the second opinions..the first orthopedic doc. said "you need a knee
replacement"..Well, that was not in my book of things to do,..so I have gone to 3 different doctors, and had all saying 'knee replacement'.."BUT..here I am with a doctor telling me it's not the knee, it's the muscles leading to the knee! So I will persue
this form of treatment and expect good results..most important, I did not have that knee replaced!! I've decided that what ever this body has left now, is what I will still have when they read my OBIT..'
I have an update on how my knee is...the arthritis pain is there, but some days are better than other's..however, I can walk better since my doc has been giving me the trigger point shots to release the knots, and tightness
in the muscles leading down to the knee and around it..I even walk around the house with out a cane, and don't lean on it when out and about..The progress is slow, but I'm patient and my God is in control.
OKay, why did I tell you all this? ....To encourage you to keep busy, seek out new challanges,stay active, be in tune with your body..Most of all be in a realtionship with Jesus..who sustain's us through all things..who know's maybe his plan for me
is to live to 100??? and tell people how I got there, just like Carl Reiner... Okay , Lord I'm willing and able !
"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in