In a 2017 HBO documentary appropriately titled “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” Reiner (who died Monday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif., at 98) sat with Brooks and Lear and reminisced concerning the lengthy weekend retreats they used to take collectively, with their spouses, a custom they fondly known as “Yenemvelt” (a variation on the Yiddish yenevelt), a phrase that refers to a form of hereafter, a world but to come — a far-off place the place, as Reiner’s mom taught him, all the great issues would occur to you that weren’t occurring to you right here and now.
The three mates believed they’d by no means laughed more durable, and felt nearer, than throughout these days in their very own Yenemvelt. (Lear even introduced up Yenemvelt when I interviewed him a few years ago; framed pictures from these weekends have been in straightforward attain on the desk in his residence workplace.)
In the documentary, Brooks wonders: Is laughter what’s preserving us alive?
“While you’re alive, you can laugh,” Reiner replies. “When you’re lifeless, the laughter is so tough. So tough.”
Reiner by no means stopped developing with a good line, something to say — funny or melancholy or trenchant. His final musings on his private Twitter account seem to have been written simply hours earlier than he died. There is a final act of resistance — “As I arose at 7:30 this morning, I was saddened to relive the day that led up to the election of a bankrupted and corrupt businessman who had no qualifications to be the leader of any country in the civilized world . . .”
“. . . At the same time,” he continued, “Hillary Clinton, who had all the needed qualifications to lead our beloved nation, had received 3 million more popular votes than our Russian-installed puppet president.”
Three tweets adopted by which Reiner expressed his regard for Noel Coward. A few tweets over the weekend mirrored Reiner’s continued love for his late spouse, Estelle, to whom he was married for 64 years. A tweet on June 18 captured a sure side about living almost a century and likewise, maybe, something concerning the existential sequestration of life throughout the covid-19 pandemic: “Too tired to tweet, too hungry to make phone calls, too old to start a new hobby but, but not too anything not to watch ‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Wheel Of Fortune,’ Rachel Maddow . . .” he wrote, commencing his dinner “by sipping pureed Lima Bean soup from a thin-rimmed cup.”
On June 20, he tweeted: “For me, a tweetless night, like tonight, is an empty, ill-spent, fruitless night, not worthy of owning a computer or its keyboard.”
What you’ve gotten right here is a comic keen to work with no matter life nonetheless brings, to stay absolutely engaged, utilizing no matter format or platform will attain his viewers (which included his 300,000-plus Twitter followers). It’s a starvation we should always all treasure in ourselves, to be included within the zip and zing of the funny life, to partake in its excellent news in addition to its tragic twists and turns. In his later years, Reiner was at all times writing no less than one ebook, collaborating in podcasts, granting a webcam interview for a collection known as “Dispatches From Quarantine.”
It does appear odd right here, to dwell for a second on what he was up to in his last days, slightly than recite the legendary scope of his profession, from “Your Show of Shows” to his “2,000 Year Old Man” routine with Brooks, to the toupee jokes on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and all of the appearing, producing, directing, writing and comedy appearances that got here for many years on finish. The stamina may be startling.
The stamina is the story, together with the laughter. What a reward to snort as a lot as he did, and make everybody else snort too. For the final decade or extra, we’ve regarded Reiner and his previous mates — these individuals who immediately helped tv develop into its basic greatest — with a mixture of adoration and the attention that they received’t at all times be with us. If considered one of their names begins trending on-line, for any motive, all of us take sharp breath.
But right here, too, Reiner discovered pleasure. If you’re not within the obituaries, then, sure, have breakfast. And in case you are within the obits, then maybe we’ll snort once more, sometime, in Yenemvelt.