Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke: Kings of Comedy

Distinguished guests Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner shared stories and laughs with attendees during a question-and-answer session during the MFS season opener Carl Reiner.

Two old friends reunited in Malibu on Sunday as if they had never been apart.

For one raucous night of great storytelling and conversation, Carl Reiner and Dick Van Dyke sat on a small stage in Malibu and reminisced on their careers in entertainment.

“My wife told me, ‘They need you to introduce Carl Reiner,’ and I said, ‘to who?’” Van Dyke told the crowd of about 200. 

Not surprisingly, just about every story the pair told ended in audience laughter.  

“Carl is a mentor, role model and greatest mensch I’ve ever known,” Van Dyke said. 

Reiner had equal praise for the Malibu staple and acting legend. 

“He is the single-most talented human being put on this earth,” Reiner said, alluding to Van Dyke’s natural knack for timing, whether it is physical comedy or dialogue. He is also an original triple-threat: singing, dancing and acting. 

The event, hosted by the Malibu Film Society, featured remarks from Van Dyke, followed by a question-and-answer session between Reiner and the audience, a book-signing by Reiner and a screening of “The Comic.” Released in 1969, “The Comic” stars Van Dyke and was directed and co-written by Reiner.  

Reiner, 92, and Van Dyke, 88, met in 1961 when Reiner created a show and cast Van Dyke as the lead on what soon came to be known as “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Before that, Reiner had cast himself as the lead of the pilot for “Head of the Family.” But network executives didn’t like Reiner for the role, so Reiner had to find a new actor and change the name. 

“Thank God,” Van Dyke said. 

The two developed a strong professional and personal bond, going on to work together on “The Comic,” in which Van Dyke starred as a struggling silent film actor who experiences the highs and lows that come with stardom. Basing the character loosely on the life of famed silent-age star Buster Keaton, Van Dyke embodies a man truly pulled in many directions, including the dark pitfalls of alcoholism. Audiences see Van Dyke in a more dramatic role, something Reiner also commended him for. 

“Years later, [‘The Comic’] not only holds up, but it becomes a template of what these movies were,” Reiner said before the screening. 

In talking about his own career, Reiner promoted his latest book — “I Just Remembered!” — and said his fervor for comedy and writing has never waned. 

“I just finished a chapter [for a new book] an hour ago,” he said, adding that he sticks to a typewriter for the writing process. 

The legendary writer, director and actor was emphatic about not letting old age slow him down. Even at age 92, he does not need reading glasses.

“I can read the smallest print on Viagra,” he joked.

One audience member asked Reiner how he would advise today’s comedians to tell less profane jokes. But Reiner defended the use of profanity.

“If you don’t have the word ‘f—,’ none of us would be able to talk,” he said. He does, however, have one rule of thumb.

“If you’re going to tell a dirty joke…it has to be twice as funny as it is dirty,” he said.  

Reiner went on to share stories — and do some serious name-dropping — about other legends like George Burns, Steve Allen and Cary Grant. 

Burns told Reiner, “I could play any age!” after mistaking Reiner’s skit with Mel Brooks “The 2,000 Year Old Man” as “The 1,000 Year Old Man.” 

Brooks, his former partner in a popular comedy duo on “The Steve Allen Show,” remains another close friend. 

Reflecting on his personal life, Reiner called his son, Rob Reiner, one of the smartest persons he knows, mentioning the many iconic films Rob Reiner has directed, including “The Princess Bride.” Additionally, he commended the Malibu resident for his political activism on national and local issues. 

Ultimately, Carl Reiner credits his wife Estelle, who passed away in 2008, for all of his successes. They were married for 65 years. But “65 is the new 70,” according to Reiner, who said he still considers himself married. 

“I talk to her every night.” 

Reiner’s new book, “I Just Remembered!” is on sale now.