My Anecdotal Life
By Carl Reiner
(St. Martin's Press, Hardcover, 9780312311049, 272pp.)
Publication Date: May 1, 2003
List Price: $24.95*
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More than once, Carl Reiner has had friends say, “Hey, Reiner, you ought to write those things down.” And at eighty, he finally has.
In this funny and engaging memoir, one of the best raconteurs on the planet recalls his life in show business in short comic takes. Reiner tells of how, after answering an ad for free acting classes on his brother Charlie’s advice, he forsakes a budding career as a machinist for an acting career. In “Sidney Bechet and His Jazz Band Meet Franz Kafka,” he captivates the legendary jazz man and his band with an unusual reading of The Metamorphosis, during a thunderstorm at a Catskills resort in 1942.
Reiner also recalls the highlights of the succeeding decades: his first sweaty audition, impersonating a dog impersonating movie stars; his forays into the theater; his work on Your Show of Shows and The Dick Van Dyke Show during TV’s golden days; and his long friendship and collaboration with Mel Brooks which gave birth to the Two Thousand Year Old Man.
In “A Recipe to Remember,” he recites a recipe for cream cheese cookies to a star-studded audience that includes Paul Newman, Leonard Bernstein, and Barbra Streisand. In “The Gourmet Eating Club,” he gives an insider’s take on the now-legendary group that included Mario Puzo, Joseph Heller, Zero Mostel, and other luminaries.
Mary Tyler Moore, Sid Caesar, Mickey Rooney, Johnny Carson, Cary Grant, Dinah Shore, Ann Bancroft, Jean Renoir – the list goes on and on – also appear in what Reiner calls the “literary variety show” that captures the highs and lows of his extraordinary life. Through it all, Reiner displays the wit and warmth that have made him one of the most beloved figures in the entertainment business. This charming memoir will delight anyone who wants a behind-the-scenes look at five decades of Hollywood and television history.
Carl Reiner created and costarred in the classic Dick Van Dyke Show and later directed major film comedies, including The Jerk; Oh, God!; Where’s Papa?; and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Winner of twelve Emmy Awards and a Grammy, Reiner was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame and received the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor. He has published five books, including Enter Laughing, and one Broadway play. He lives in Beverly Hills, California, with his wife, Estelle.
"Venerable actor, stand-up, second banana, producer, director, and author (How Paul Robeson Saved My Life, 1999, etc.) presents additional autobiography--now, he assures us, with more fact than ever before. Reiner reveals much of his home life, and particularly his life in showbiz, in chapters that resemble sitcom premises and blackout sketches. These disconnected episodes are, he asserts, '96 percent . . . absolutely true.' Tummeling in the Catskills or double-talking on Caesar's Hour, from the small screen to the big one, he offers an archetypal theatrical memoir, ever benign, complete with rimshot gags, tales of 'shmuckery,' and discrete references to flatulence. (To add some class to the proceedings, Reiner employs new orthography to describe the 'pharts'.) Many supporting players make appearances; the cast of dozens includes Georgie Jessel, Mickey Rooney, Howie Morris, Dick (not 'Dickey') Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Max Liebman, 2,000-year-old Mel Brooks, and cherished family members, each acting with style and grace under the author's direction. From youth in the Bronx to playing the White House, his story has few vicissitudes; Reiner seems to have progressed from 'Call Me Mister' to 'Call Me Mister Show Biz' with little hesitation. He's kept the same wife, kids, and forebears he started with, and, he tells us, he's never sued anyone or been sued, surely a record in his line of work. His father was an inventive watchmaker, he recalls, and clearly our good-natured author has inherited a nice sense of timing. Something sweet, with a little spice and a lot of schmaltz: maybe not haute cuisine, but served warm it's a good recipe for palatable recollections."
"Aren't we lucky that Carl Reiner's memory is still intact. He has given us a veritable treasure trove of wonderful recollections, some side-splittingly funny and a few that are really touching. The best one is about me."
"You can't define genius, but it stands up and shouts from the pages of Carl Reiner's My Anecdotal Life."
---Mary Tyler Moore
"After reading this book, you'll know why Carl Reiner was one of my all-time favorite guests on The Tonight Show. He's bright, a brilliant storyteller, self-effacing, and funny as hell.
up0Besides, he is, as we say in the Midwest, a good egg (the gentile counterpart of mensch)."
"Mr. Reiner's stories allow us to have his whole life flash before our eyes. Happily, he is a delightful storyteller and a very gifted flasher."
"This book offers the absolutely incomparable experience of knowing what it would be like to have Carl Reiner as a friend and without the exorbitant costs of trying to book him on a regular basis."