Carl Reiner honored with humor award

Wednesday, October 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ When the tribute to funny man Carl Reiner got off to a false start Tuesday night, the comedian's impeccable timing demonstrated why he was being honored in the first place.

``Does anybody have four double-A batteries?'' he shouted from his balcony seat at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts after the sound died as the performers there to salute Reiner were introduced.

Reiner, perhaps best known for creating ``The Dick Van Dyke Show,'' was awarded the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain prize for American humor. The show's stars, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, helped provide Reiner with a trip down memory lane.

Van Dyke pretended to trip as he walked on stage, reminiscent of his clumsy character Rob Petrie. Van Dyke noted that Reiner wrote the first 39 shows by himself.

``Carl Reiner took a big chance on me,'' Moore said, recalling how he gave her the part of Laura Petrie though she was unproven as a comedic actress.

Also honoring Reiner were his son, director Rob Reiner, comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, George Wallace, Richard Belzer and Joy Behar.

Seinfeld said he had the guts to say, ``I think Carl Reiner is funnier than Mark Twain. He's funny, don't get me wrong. But what was his best bit?''

``I'm sorry, but this guy is not touching Carl Reiner,'' Seinfeld said. ``Twain would be working to type script changes for Carl Reiner. Twain should be so lucky to be here today so he could get the Carl Reiner prize.''

Reiner, 78, emerged on the national stage as Sid Caesar's No. 2 man in the classic television comedy review, ``Your Show of Shows.'' In 1950, during breaks in the writing room for Caesar's show, Reiner and cast member Mel Brooks started improvising skits called the ''2000 Year Old Man,'' which they performed on ``Your Show of Shows'' and ``Caesar's Hour.''

Reiner received two Emmys for Best Supporting Actor for his work on ``Your Show of Shows.''

In 1960, Reiner and Brooks made their best-selling album, ''2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks.'' They had five albums, three of which were nominated for Grammys. Brooks' paid tribute to his old sidekick on tape, saying ``he's more than just a tall, bald Jew.''

Reiner in 1961 created ``The Dick Van Dyke Show,'' which ran for five seasons with him in the role of toupee-wearing Alan Brady. The show earned him seven of his 12 Emmys.

A writer and director, Reiner went on to have such movie hits as ``Oh, God,'' ``The Jerk,'' ``Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid,'' ``All of Me'' and ``Fatal Instinct.''

When Reiner accepted the award, he said he was so nervous he checked his fly before coming on stage. The award, a bust of Twain, was supposed to be delivered to Reiner later, but he whisked it from its stand and walked from the stage, saying he was afraid he'd never see it again.

The tribute will air Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. EST on PBS stations nationwide.

Richard Pryor received the first award in 1998. Jonathan Winters was awarded last year.