Saturday, September 12, 2009
A BRILLIANT COMIC MIND IS LOST - LARRY GELBART PASSES AWAY- CIRCA SEPTEMBER 11, 2009
Larry Gelbart was a man of many words.Words that were usually thoughtful and always funny.
He died on September 11, 2009. While it is reported to have been a peaceful and quiet passing, he leaves gales of laughter in his formidable, comic wake.
The verbal and visionary Gelbart plyed his wondrous wit in radio, television, films, books and on Broadway, during a stellar career spanning almost 65 years. By the final chapter of his life, Gelbart was the acknowledged scion of professional comedy writers.
Descendant of Polish Jews and born on February 25, 1928 in Chicago, IL. , Gelbart's father was a neighborhood barber on the Northside. Gelbart claimed that his father had a way with scissors ,but that his mother was the one with a razor sharp wit. Surprisingly,for a man of such erudition as an adult, Gelbart was not an avid reader as a child, but he claims to have been "an avid showoff."
Comedian Danny Thomas was one of his father's clients and he recruited a teen aged Gelbart as a comedy writer. The young wordsmith went on to pen jokes for Bob Hope in Hollywood and in battle zones around the globe. He did a stint on staff at the top rated DUFFY'S TAVERN radio show.
When he moved to writing for early television, he joined the vaunted team that put hilarious words in Sid Caesar's mouth (see above). Gelbart worked with Neil Simon, Mel Brooks,Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, and Woody Allen on Caesar's many video ventures, including YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS, for a decade.
The affable scribe wrote and produced the acclaimed CBS-TV series M*A*S*H* with Alan Alda and the brilliant cast pictured, above.
On Broadway, he wrote the book for A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, a 1960's hit that enjoyed a successful revival in New York a few years ago.
Gelbart's movie credits include OH, GOD and TOOTSIE.
His book,LAUGHING MATTERS, should be , in my opinion , a required text for any student of the comedic arts.
His body of work is massive and remarkable for it's humanity and insight.
I never met this man, who is renowned for his unique worldview, rapier wit and gentle manner.
Like any great writer, he speaks best for himself.
Below is an excerpt of a voluminous, 1998 interview he granted to the Archive of American Television. Like the man it profiles, it is extraordinary. Enjoy!!!