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Thursday, June 15, 2017

“If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast"

I don’t have access to HBO to watch this documentary, but as soon as it’s out on DVD, I’ll find it. Featuring Carl Reiner and “His Fellow Nonagenarians,” I know it will challenge so many of the stereotypes related to aging, especially those mentioned below by Norman Lear (in bold).

To read more about the documentary, see the New York Times article below. I hope it will inspire you to, as Mel Brooks, says imagine aging as a time to still “crack a joke…sing a song…tell a story.”


“For Carl Reiner and His Fellow Nonagenarians, Death Can Wait”
By Dan Hyman, June 2, 2017


The title of Carl Reiner’s most recent book is “Too Busy to Die,” and this 95-year-old comedy legend can thank his vivid dreams for inspiring many of the (sometimes wacky) ideas that keep him going.

There was the “selfish-y,” a self-indulgent selfie he introduced on “Conan” in which the photographer blocks the other person in the picture from view. And “Gnarly Carly,” the rap alter ego he debuted on “The Queen Latifah Show.” His nighttime reveries also spawned the concept of his next book, his 22nd, a compendium of the films that enraptured him growing up, including “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Mark of Zorro.”

“My mind keeps popping,” Mr. Reiner, who created “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and directed the movies “Oh, God!,” “The Jerk” and “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” said in a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “So I’ll keep going as long as it lets me.”

It’s stereotype-shattering nonagenarians like Mr. Reiner who inspired the documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” which debuts Monday, June 5, on HBO. The film, directed by Danny Gold, takes its name from Mr. Reiner’s daily activity of checking the death notices to make sure it’s safe to go about his business.

A look into those leading vital lives well into their 90s, the documentary is also a toast to Mr. Reiner’s career and to those of his famous peers. He serves as narrator and plays something of a host throughout: There he is interviewing Kirk Douglas and Dick Van Dyke and enjoying freewheeling, reflective conversations with the longtime friends and colleagues Mel Brooks and Norman Lear.

Mr. Brooks, 90, first met Mr. Reiner in 1950 while working on Sid Caesar’s early television series “Your Show of Shows,” and the pair still watch films together at Mr. Reiner’s house several times a week. (In 2012, Jerry Seinfeld joined the two men at Mr. Reiner’s home for deli sandwiches on an episode of his web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”)

Mr. Brooks said the thought of him slowing down in older age is heresy. “There is living and dying; there’s no retirement,” Mr. Brooks said in an interview.

Mr. Brooks, the comic mind behind “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein” and “The Producers,” is currently revamping the Broadway version of “Young Frankenstein” for its reopening in October in London’s West End. And on June 30 and July 1, at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas, he’ll perform his one-man show, during which he’ll sprinkle in comedy bits and film clips while recounting tales of his life.

“If we die, then we can’t do much,” he said. “But as long as we’re alive, we can still tap dance, we can still crack a joke, we can still sing a song, we can still tell a story.”

Mr. Lear, the creator of “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Sanford and Son,” has been having a bit of resurgence lately. A remake of his 1970s and ’80s sitcom “One Day at a Time” will be returning for a second season on Netflix, and he reviews scripts and attends nearly every casting session and show taping. He also hosts a weekly podcast, “All of the Above,” talking comedy with guests like Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler.

“The culture has an impression of aging that is not realistic,” he said. “To get the laughs, it paints a picture of older people as infirm, as whiny, and as incapacitated and foolish. I don’t think that’s who we are.”

George Shapiro, the film’s producer (with Aimee Hyatt) and Mr. Reiner’s nephew, agreed. He’s been thinking about such a documentary since 2010, when he started a paper file marked “Vitality After 90.” Last year, with Mr. Reiner’s blessing, he went ahead and self-financed the documentary, tapping Mr. Gold to direct after Ms. Hyatt showed him the filmmaker’s recent documentary “100 Voices: A Journey Home,” which tells the history of Jewish culture in Poland. (Mr. Shapiro, a longtime talent manager whose clients include Mr. Seinfeld, declined to disclose the budget.)

Mr. Reiner wanted the documentary to land at HBO, and it found a receptive audience there. Sheila Nevins, the president of HBO Documentary Films, said she’s overseen “a lot of sorrow onscreen” in her career, particularly as it relates to older people. Most documentaries featuring older subjects “are about elder abuse or diseases,” she noted. “To suddenly be able to laugh is a very rare thing in a documentary.”

Early in the film, Mr. Reiner asks a rhetorical question: “How come we got the extra years? Was it luck, good genes, modern medicine? Or are we doing something right?”

The film then sets out to answer that question and attempts to serve as something of a how-to guide, proposing the maintenance of close friendships and passions for hobbies as paramount.

Mr. Seinfeld, who appears in the film to offer a perspective on aging and reveals he often wakes up depressed every morning thinking about yet another day of tasks, first met Mr. Reiner as an 8-year-old seeking an autograph at the Westbury Music Fair. Mr. Seinfeld said he’s a firm believer in remaining dynamic in one’s later years. “That song ‘Young at Heart,’ I don’t believe in that,” he said with a laugh, referring to the Frank Sinatra hit. “You gotta do something! You may start with a philosophy, but you got to actually act on it. It doesn’t happen just because you have a sunny disposition. You actually have to do some work.”

Mr. Shapiro said he’s already booked the 63-year-old Mr. Seinfeld for a 100th-birthday comedy show at Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas, in 2054. “We even have a hold-the-date certificate,” Mr. Shapiro said with a laugh. “He will be there. I don’t know if I’ll be there.”

Mr. Reiner admits to still being surprised on occasion by his contemporaries. During his research for the book about films from his youth he learned that Olivia de Havilland, who, in 1938, starred alongside Errol Flynn in “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” was still alive and living in France at 100.

“It makes me so happy,” Mr. Reiner said. “To know you can go on like that and still have your wits about you.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 4, 2017, on Page AR23 of the New York edition with the headline: Hey Death, Hold on a Minute.


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