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Comedy Center Exhibit Highlights Career Of Carl Reiner

Pictured, from left, are Rob, Annie and Lucas Reiner during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for a new exhibit on Carl Reiner at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. The three siblings shared memories of their father, who passed away in 2020. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

The National Comedy Center in Jamestown held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday for its new exhibit honoring the legacy of Carl Reiner.

Reiner’s family toured the Comedy Center and participated in the ceremony. Rob, Lucas, and Annie Reiner also shared memories from their father’s prestigious career.

The Comedy Center unveiled the new exhibit featuring iconic moments of Reiner’s career in celebration of his 100th birthday. His children hope the exhibit will help carry on the legacy of Reiner, who passed away in June 2020.

“I can’t thank you enough for being here,” Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center, executive director, said Wednesday. “It’s been a remarkable experience for our team to process, preserve and now present more than 75 boxes of material from one of the most prolific comedic minds the world will ever know.”

Gunderson commented on the career of Reiner, who was an actor, director, screenwriter and stand-up comedian who won 11 Emmy awards and a Grammy award. Reiner’s career included popular works such as “Your Show of Shows,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the Grammy-winning “2000 Year Old Man.”

“Carl Reiner’s more than seven decades in comedy have not only been remarkable for their consistency but for their longevity and their ability to inspire legions of artists for generations to come,” Gunderson said. “Carl Reiner’s gift to us all is comedy that is witty, intelligent, lighthearted and ultimately very human.”

Reiner served on the National Comedy Center’s advisory board until his death.

“It’s been a privilege for the National Comedy Center to count him among our advisory board,” Gunderson said. “We were privileged to have Carl as a founding advisory board member of the National Comedy Center.”

Reiner’s impact on comedy inspired the name of the comedy center’s preservation department.

Lucas Reiner expressed the family’s gratitude for the center’s exhibit. “This place is like a mecca for comedians and my father is very happy to be here,” he said. “I’m sure he’s in this room right now. It’s just an honor to be here.”

The National Comedy Center honored Carl Reiner’s legacy by holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its latest exhibit featuring iconic moments of Reiner’s career in comedy. P-J photo by Timothy Frudd

Annie Reiner said the exhibit was a touching tribute to her father. “He was funny, we all know that, but this exhibit reminded me of what a sweet man he was,” she said.

She said her father was a successful and famous comedian for many decades because of the way he connected with people.

“I think it’s because he had this very open heart and that was who he was,” she said. “I think it touched people and it drew them to him.”

Rob Reiner echoed his sister’s comments and said his father was loved and respected by everyone.

“He was a really sweet man,” he said. “I said when he passed away two years ago, that in my entire life I never met anybody who had a bad word to say about him. He was just the sweetest man.”

Rob Reiner said the family bought a television so they could watch their father on “Show of Shows.”

“He started on television in the late 1940s.” he said. “The truth of the matter is, he was on television before we owned a television.”

He shared a memory of how his father would signal to his children that he loved them even while on camera. “He would say, ‘I’m not allowed to wave. They don’t like me waving. But you’ll see, I’ll go like this with my tie. I’ll straighten my tie and that will be me telling you I love you and go to bed,'” Rob Reiner said.

Before cutting the ribbon for the featured exhibit, Rob Reiner expressed the family’s excitement for participating in the ceremony honoring their father’s legacy.

“We’re really thrilled to be here,” he said. “This is a great honor for him.”

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Reiner family spoke with reporters about the enduring legacy of Carl Reiner and the touching tribute by the National Comedy Center. Rob Reiner said his father’s career was about more than being famous or making people laugh.

“He wanted everybody to be happy,” he said. “His main goal in life was to make people happy, make them laugh, make them have a good time, so this museum and this exhibit will do that for people.”

Annie Reiner told reporters the exhibit was very personal for her. “It was extremely moving for me to see him again and to see his whole life,” Annie Reiner said. “Just to see that he’s out there still in the world means a lot.”

Rob Reiner explained his father’s platform of comedy allowed him to touch the lives of millions of people.

“He touched so many people,” he said. “Obviously, we’re his children so we have the most emotional connection, but you look at Dick Van Dyke and Steve Martin and Mel Brooks and all the people that he worked with and how he’s touched their lives and then that ultimately touches everybody’s life.”

Annie Reiner explained she learned from her father’s life that comedy is about more than making people laugh and is fundamental to everyday life.

“Comedy is really about telling the truth in a way that people can tolerate,” she said. “We do need other ways to tell truths that no one can stand. He was very good with that, and in his whole life he lived that. Anything bad that happened, he could always defuse it.”

Lucas Reiner said his father used comedy to express truth about humanity.

“The fallibility of human beings was something he was constantly pointing out,” he said. “I think he found a funny, creative way to express that.”

Rob Reiner said one of his father’s greatest roles was serving as the MC for events across the world.

“He was the MC of the world,” he said. “I’ve never seen anybody more brilliant. I saw him hundreds of times. He never failed. He knew how to crawl right up to the line and he barely ever crossed it. He knew the audience. He voiced what everybody else was experiencing, and the place would explode.”

The Chautauqua Institution also held a celebration of Reiner’s legacy Wednesday night. Pat Hazell hosted the event, with special video tributes from Dick Van Dyke, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, Mel Brooks and Bette Midler. The event highlighted Reiner’s lifelong comedic career and provided special memories from his children, Rob, Lucas, and Annie.

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