In 1960, when he was working as a writer and sometimes performer on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, Carl Reiner was contacted about being featured in an episode of This Is Your Life. The idea turned his stomach.
As a comedian at the end of his fabled run on revue shows, he knew it was his job was to make fun of shows like This Is Your Life, as he famously had years earlier in a sketch he wrote for Your Show of Shows—not appear on them. But the producers were insistent, offering at first a new car—he had just purchased one—and then a 12-volume leather-bound edition of the collected works of Mark Twain, his literary and comedy idol. The volumes included the author’s signature and an original manuscript page. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Reiner, who died Monday night at age 98 of natural causes, was the rare actor, writer, and comedian whose work as a humorist across a show business career that spanned nine decades could arguably rival that of Twain. His death was confirmed to Variety by his assistant, that publication reported Tuesday.