Friday, September 11, 2009

Larry Gelbart

Larry Gelbart passed away this morning. He was 81. He was a dear friend, mentor, inspiration, and the finest writer I've ever met. I'll write more about him in the days to come. At the moment I'm just too devastated. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.

69 comments:

Jon Weisman said...

So sorry to hear this news.

Alan Tomlinson said...

Larry Gelbart and his on-camera face, Alan Alda, showed a then terrified child/teenager that aspiring to be witty and sensitive were desirable, in a world where these qualities were decidedly not. I am filled with gratitude.

RIP,

Alan Tomlinson

Anonymous said...

I just heard this news from a co-worker, and my first instinct was to check your blog....

Tom said...

Sorry for your loss Ken. Sad news indeed.

Neal said...

I find I continually revert back to my MASH sense of comedic timing and style whenever I work on air. This show, and specifically Larry's work and influence on it, has helped me to define my wit and my style of humor. I am saddened at this loss.

Toni said...

Ken, I'm so very sorry for your loss; I know from reading here how special Mr. Gelbart was to you. You have both made my life immeasurably better through your writing. Thank you.

Doug in Dallas said...

I'm saddened to hear about the loss of Larry Gelbart. He was the best!

Great Big Radio Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Great Big Radio Guy said...

Words fail, as evidenced by my deleted post...

If anyone can carry the torch, it would have to be many...and you should be among them, Ken. I know how much he meant to you, and I'm certain he knew how much he meant to all of us.

Abyssinia, Larry...

Anonymous said...

I gasped when I read this. So sad. Maybe the most underrated funnyman ever.

wackiland said...

Someone wise once told me that the pain we feel when we lose someone is directly proportional to the joy they brought to our lives. I know you are feeling the loss of Mr. Gelbart greatly.

Dana Gabbard said...

In a bio of Danny Kaye I read after Kaye cut a deal to do a weekly show for CBS in the mid-60s the producer brought in Larry Gelbart to help create the format. Gelbart was selected because of his strengths in structure and concepts--his work those few weeks provided the framework for a show that lasted 4 years. That is craft at its most well honed--and just one example of his genius from an extraordinary carrer.

Dave Williams said...

Ken,

As one of the many wannabe comedy writers in your wide orbit, I wish you and David the happiness, pride and sympathy you deserve for losing your mentor.

Hell, I guess I'm talking to myself, too. Larry Gelbart and Neil Simon inspired a couple of generations of writers who went to school on their work.

When Neil is gone I may not be able to find another mentor. And I never met him.

Thank you for paying it forward.

Dave

ps. Holy crap. My word verification to post this note is "weepin."

Mike Bell said...

I know you dislike emoticons, but in this case...

:-(

Dhppy said...

So sorry to hear about Larry Gelbart. The moment I read it, I figured you would have something nice to say about him.

Simon H. said...

I'm sorry for your loss Ken. Not only was he a dear friend to you, he was the creative voice for one of television's greatest shows(M*A*S*H), a series that still resonates for millions of us every day. He will be missed.

MaureenSolomon said...

This is really sad news, as Larry was one of the greatest comedy writers America ever produced. And he was a very nice man, a real person. Last May he and Pat attended Dolores Hope's 100th birthday that I helped put together. When Larry and Pat arrived I showed them around and we signed our congratulations on a giant card. Then Larry, Pat and I sat at a quiet table and talked for more than half an hour. I was so honored that they spent time with me, rather than mingle. I just received the photos of us from that lovely afternoon and put it together in a package with some of my articles, and a book by our mutual friend Mel Shavelson. Time ran out and I will miss this wonderful man very much....

Anonymous said...

Tootsie... Your Show of Shows... MASH... Larry Gelbart should have had a longer life. But he's earned some of the greatest obtuaries ever written.

Dhppy said...

I forgot how many lines from Tootsie I still use in casual conversation with my boyfriend. We don't have to tell each other where the lines come from or why we're saying them. We just know.

"I said 'Good Day!'".

"Zap him in the bedoobies".

"Can you pull back a little father?" "How about Cleveland."

"That's not so good, Michael."

"Good shower?" "Good shower."

"What are you saying to me!?"

"No, let's just walk. It's cheaper to get mugged."

"...and... and... just...just...just...owe it all up to her."

A great movie, with funny lines, from a brilliant man.

Mark said...

Ironically, or maybe suitably, I was watching M*A*S*H when I noticed the headline move on Twitter. A great talent.

Corinne said...

Every time one of the "Greats" passes away, so does another piece of my childhood.

His legacy will live on. His work is timeless.

Brian Phillips said...

My sympathies as well. Thank you, Mr. Levine for sharing your experiences and anecdotes about Larry Gelbart through this blog.

Also, I found out that he was one of the writers of "Dick Tracy in B-Flat", a wonderful star-studded bit of radio from the "Command Performance" program.

Wendy said...

I am so sorry, Ken. Sad news for the world, but this most be completely devastating to those who knew him.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

Ken...When I heard about Larry's death, I immediately thought of you. This is a very sad day in so many ways.

HEATHER said...

My condolences to you as well Ken.

roy o said...

You have my most sincere condolences on your loss.

Laydio said...

Hi, Nancy Plum here Ken and I'm very sorry to hear about Larry's death which was broadcast on NBC news! I remember you introduced me to him and my writer friend Paul Robert Coyle while we were waiting in line one day to see a film in Westwood. I live in Kentucky now and very happy. I know you and Larry were so close!
Very very sorry for your loss.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Aw, jeez...

I'm so sorry for his family and friends...and so elated at the wonderful body of work that he created to entertain us for years to come.

richard Y said...

My most sincere condolences to you and to his extended family. A great loss to all.

ajm said...

I loved Larry Gelbart's work. *Even* NEIGHBORS.

Richard Jensen said...

Condolences, sir. I grew up on M.A.S.H. and I freely admit that anytime I try to write the funny, Mr. Gelbart's DNA is present.
If there's a heaven, I'm sure he's there and I sure he's got a great table.

ajm said...

"The last miracle I did was the 1969 Mets. Before that, I think you have to go back to the Red Sea." -- George Burns, OH, GOD!

I like to think that funny people on the order of Mr. Gelbart are another example of His miracles.

Matt Patton said...

Larry Gelbart was also one of the co-writers of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, which is still just about the greatest musical ever turned loose on Broadway. And helped write THE THRILL OF IT ALL, which is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. If that was all he had ever done, he would STILL be worth remembering.

ajm said...

One of the most hilarious evenings I ever spent in the theater was at a high school production of FORUM about 10 years ago in suburban Philadelphia. Forty years after it ran on Broadway -- heck, 2,000 years since Plautus first staged his plays -- it still brought down the house.

Two Gelbart-related things worth checking out: He was interviewed for a chapter in Mike Sacks' just-published volume AND HERE'S THE KICKER (Writer's Digest Books), a collection of interviews with comedy writers. And there's another interview with him in the current issue of THE SONDHEIM REVIEW.

Michael said...

My condolences to you, Ken, and to Mr. Gelbart's family, and to all of us. We wish we had more. Thankfully, those of us who enjoyed him from afar have great memories of great comedy, and those who knew him have great memories of a great talent and a greater man.

Mike Barer said...

One of my favorite shows of all time. I've watched every episode more than once.

JenHartNSoul said...

So sad for us. The world lost an amazing talented man today. He laid the groundwork for you in Seasons 1-4, and brilliantly so. I will very much look forward to your future posts in tribute to this man!

Anonymous said...

My condolences to you on the loss of your friend. I look forward to reading your tribute someday.

Bob Hogan said...

I was so sad to hear this news tonight. I immediately checked your blog to see if you had anything up.

Then, I remembered that Mr. Gelbart had written a funny bit about his death at the end of a 1994 essay called "Less Angeles," which is included in his book "Laughing Matters." In the essay he writes:

"I will be leaving town one day, of course. Everybody finally runs out of birthdays. And I know just how I want to go. Every now and then, when some part of L.A. is going up in smoke somewhere, no matter how far from the fire you are, your car will wind up covered with a fine layer of ash. Well, sir, I came to L.A. by car and that's exactly the way I want to leave. I don't mean in a hearse. When my number's up, when I finally take the Big Off-ramp, I've made arrangements to be cremated and for my ashes to be spread all over the hood of my Jag, my theory being that, while there may not be life after death, even after you're gone it is still possible to get stuck in traffic in L.A. just a couple more times--or maybe even be carjacked posthumously. But if my wife stays true to form, I'll be going through the car wash before I even know what hit me."

I miss him already.

Jeff Cohen said...

I never met Larry, but we had corresponded via email, and he was a great talent and a nice man, two things that don't often go together. I am so sorry to hear this news. He'll be missed, naturally, because there just isn't anybody who can fill those shoes.

scottmc said...

The news of Larry Gelbart's passing shocked and saddened me. A flood of memories came instantly. The perfection of the books for the musicals 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' and 'City of Angels'. The lines from 'Tootsie' and 'Oh, God'. The sheer brilliance of the play 'Mastergate' and the acheivement of bringing a work like MASH to television. One of my prized possessions is a signed copy of his wonderful memoir LAUGHING MATTERS, which he signed for me when I met him outside the Barrymore Theatre on Broadway during the recent revival of his play 'Sly Fox'.
Ken, during your recent Writing for Sit Coms' call-in you told a story of the time while writing for MASH you saw Larry create a speech for, I believe, Radar that was so quick that the secretary couldn't keep up. (If possible could you tell that story again.)
Words can not convey the sadness and loss that I am feeling at this moment

Lairbo said...

Reading the list of his work, along with the titles we all know , I recognized films and plays I've always loved and laughed at and never realized were his. The Thrill of it All, The Wrong Box... treasures.

Sorry to hear of your loss, Ken.

gottacook said...

This is very sad news. All I've learned about Mr. Gelbart over the years suggests that he was indeed one of the good guys. I even liked his briefly seen, little-known 1980 series United States.

J S Swanson said...

Ken,

May your sorrow be short and your memories be long!

Truly, Larry Gelbart was a Comedy God.

May I offer a couple of my LG related observations?

Many years ago, I appeared in a very minor role in a production of Sly Fox. Here are a couple of quotes from his bijou:

"Ah! Gold! "God" with an 'L'!"

"Never think too little of people; there’s always a little less to be thought."

A couple of years ago, I was fortunate to briefly meet Mr.G -
I showed him & his wife to their seats at the Freud Playhouse one night for a Reprise! performance. He seemed quite flattered that a complete Non-Entity like me recognized him. And I'm sure he was quite sincere.

I certainly hope that I end up wherever he is in the Great Beyond when 4000 volts won't make me go Voom ....

Miles said...

A good man, a great writer, a terrific mensch. He will be missed, but undoubtedly he's in the big writers room in the sky making God (or, most likelky, the other writers) laugh. Rest in peace.

Richard Cooper said...

Ken,
I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend and mentor, Larry Gelbart.
Some of the most "fun" memories of my life involve watching his work and laughing with friends in a theatre watching A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, and in a living room jammed full of MASH-viewing fanatics in college. He is irreplaceable.
Best,
Richard

Jerad said...

I offer my condolences to you Ken, it's small, but it's all I have. to lose two friends who meant so much to you in such a short time must be devastating.I truly wish you the best after your loss.

jbryant said...

A great loss. He always seemed so vital, I figured he had many years left to go (didn't know about the cancer). My condolences to you, Ken, and all those who knew Larry or were entertained by his work (that's pretty much everybody). My God, what a career! I guess you can't really say it was cut short, but knowing that he was still writing until near the end just deepens the loss. RIP

Grubber said...

He created great experiences on the either medium. My condolences to his family and friends who will miss this great man.
Sincerely,
David.
WV=inguenti
I think that is great word to describe Larry Gelbart.

emily said...

Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.

Paul Duca said...

I've seen a couple of people mention Gelbart's work on "The Thrill of It All"...you mean he did an uncredited punch-up on Carl Reiner's script for that film?

Anonymous said...

Variety was kind enough in their tribute to mention Ken by contributing a quotation about Larry...

Anonymous said...

-the Variety link
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118008466.html?categoryid=14&cs=1

Ian Lush said...

Very sorry to hear this news; Larry's wife Pat is my mother's cousin, and I knew him well when they lived in London in the 60s and 70s. He was one of the nicest people you could hope to meet, as well as truly, genuinely and sometimes screamingly funny - but never cruelly.

Ian Lush said...

Re last post, should have said that Pat is my father's cousin, not mother's, sorry.

cpreynolds said...

When I read the news about Mr. Gelbart this morning, I immediately went to your blog. I know how much he meant to you. My condolences.

Rose Vanden Eynden said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Ken, since he was a friend and mentor to you, and for our loss, as the folks who so enjoyed his brilliance. Prayers for him and his family.

Kelly said...

Just want to add my condolences. I am so sorry for your loss. May Mr. Gelbert rest in peace.

David K. M. Klaus said...

I've been watching Mr. Gelbart's programs literally all my life: the Danny Kaye show he produced for CBS was one of my favorite shows in my childhood -- I had to argue to stay up so I could see it each week (9-10 p.m. here in St. Louis).

May he always shine in your memory.

VLJH said...

I learned this last night, in an online community of M*A*S*H fans. I'm so grateful to Larry for sharing his genius and heart with us for all these years, and impacting so many lives in a positive way.

My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Pierre said...

M*A*S*H was one of the best television series ever produced. RIP, Larry Gelbart.

Jayne said...

My condolences to you and all of his friends and family.

Tom K Mason said...

I still remember the very first commercial I saw for MASH - it was just Alan Alda on a stool talking about the show. My dad was watching as well and expressed concern that it looked like it was going to be the Hogan's Heroes of Korea. It wasn't, and we watched it every week together without fail and noticed Larry Gelbart's name on every episode. After that, I made it a point to watch everything he had a hand in. The fact that he could take a book like Barbarians At The Gate and make it into an entertaining movie still astounds me.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I'm a little slow about these things. I only recently found out that Mr. Gelbart and Burt Shevelove wrote one of the funniest movies ever, "The Wrong Box." He will be missed. We really didn't need another reason to grieve on September 11.

AZRedSoxGal said...

I, too, went right to your blog when I heard the news. What a full, rich life he had. I can hear the laughs from heaven already. My Dad, a great ad man, was a big admirer. I hope they meet and crack each other up!

Anonymous said...

Ken I was in NYC visiting friends and saw the obituary in the NY Times. I thought "oh, poor Ken" and then I was about to tell my friends, "I have this friend who is going to be upset about Larry Gelbart passing" when I remembered that we don't really know each other. However, I feel I know you and I look forward to reading you every day. Thank you and best wishes.

Fred

Anonymous said...

instead of "best wishes" I meant to say "my thoughts are with you.

and they are.

Fred

Anonymous said...

I was saddened to hear about Larry's death. I learned about him thru MASH. I was not even born when MASH aired first but now I own the entire series and have watched each episode more than once. Undoubtedly, the funniest are Larry's. It's nicer to know that he was also a nice person..

Anonymous said...

I once wrote a letter of appreciation to Mr Gelbart, letting him know of the extreme pleasure that his show MASH as well as his multitude of other work brought to not only me, but to my parents, grnadparents, children, and I am sure in the years to come my new grandson as well. He not only acknowledged this note, but sent me a long hand written letter thanking me for taking the time to let him know how much he had meant to all of us. Thank goodness we all have the hundreds upon hundreds of hours of recorded material in which to zvel for decades to come. As he would simply say "G O O D B Y E"