On May 19 actor-director Carl Reiner, who created the Emmy award-winning series The Dick Van Dyke Show, will interview Neil Simon for the debut of the Brinker International Lecture Series, in Dallas.
What’s the difference between the comedy of your day and the comedy of today?
The difference is that the subject matter was more constrained back then. Now we’re allowed to comment on anything. There’s nothing you can’t make fun of, talk about, or treat in some way. In the old days, Laura and Rob Petrie slept in twin beds. You never, ever saw couples in a double bed. That’s not to say that what’s funny today isn’t what was funny then. The relative senses of humor are the same, but the things you used to hear in the privacy of clubs, you hear on TV—if not on the networks, then on cable.
Is this new, unconstrained freedom a good thing?
Anything that allows for the total acceptance of all thoughts is better than the alternative. An open society is better than a closed society. I’m not talking about no laws; I mean no restrictions on ideas.
So who do you think is funny these days?
Probably the same guys you like. Ray Romano is very funny. Frasier, Becker —they work. The cable shows. Last week I happened to see an old episode of The Larry Sanders Show. That was funny—I wish they would bring it back. Of course, Larry David’s show [ Curb Your Enthusiasm ] is really pushing the envelope. Do you know that Mel [Brooks] is going to be on this season for something like five episodes? Larry wants to audition to sing in The Producers. I never saw Southpark until a couple of days ago, when Norman Lear told me about it. It’s pretty outrageous. I couldn’t believe what those little cartoon figures are saying.
Are you working as much as you want?
As much as I want. I’m 81 years old. At my age, you don’t take long, difficult jobs, though I did do Ocean’s Eleven. They asked me to do Ocean’s Twelve . If I’m around, I’ll be happy to do it. It’s supposed to shoot in Europe—I hope there’s still a Europe.
Is your son Rob going to be the next governor of California?
I hope not. He’s so sincere about getting things done. The last thing governors do is get things done. He’d get so frustrated he’d blow his top.
Just think: Governor Meathead.
Rob said a long time ago, “If I won the Nobel prize, the headline would be ‘Meathead Wins Nobel Prize.’”