Sunday, September 13, 2009

My thoughts on Larry Gelbart

In addition to everything else, he wrote beautiful eulogies. With his flair for words and wit and warmth he constructed eloquent touching tributes. I used to kid him that he had to live forever because no one else could write them as well. And now I find myself in the agonizing position of trying to write his. First off, let me say, it won’t be as good.

So rather than tell you what you probably already know – that he was the Mozart of comedy writing and recipient of every honor but the Heisman Trophy – I’ll try to share some things you might not know; some personal stories.

In many ways the hardest part of writing scripts is turning them in. Because then you have to wait. And wait. And wait. It’s a stomach churning exercise filled with angst and insecurity and flashbacks of high school. After a day you’re an utter basket case. After a week you’re confessing to crimes you didn’t even commit.

When you turned in a script to Larry at 5:30 he called you at home to say he loved it… at 6:30. The first Rolaid hadn’t even dissolved in your stomach yet. Trust me, this is unheard of. But that was Larry. Empathetic, considerate, a mensch. He was the kindest man in an industry that seriously frowns on that sort of thing. Fortunately, he had the talent to overcome it.

And despite his enormous success, he was just as human as the rest of us mere boulevard farcitiers. He arranged for house seats for my wife and I to see the original production of SLY FOX. Jacqueline Kennedy was sitting next to me. When I called the next day to thank him and tell him who was sitting on my left, he got very nervous. “Did she like it? Did she laugh? Which jokes?” He was thrilled to learn she did laugh, and I’d like to think thrilled that my wife and I laughed too but probably more Jackie. After all, she paid for her seat.

I mentioned one day in a rewrite that my favorite MASH episode was “the More I See You” with Blythe Danner guesting as Hawkeye’s former flame. A few days later I received a gift. In those days Larry used to write his scripts longhand on legal pads. He gave me a Xeroxed copy of his original first draft. And the Mozart comparison continues. There were no cross-outs. Every line was perfectly constructed. Emotion and humor flowed from speech to speech with absolute ease. How does one do that? It’s impossible! That draft (now bound) remains one of my most cherished possessions.

And by the way, he could write an entire MASH script in one night. He was incredibly fast. Stanley Donan was going to direct a movie called BLAME IT ON RIO. He was not happy with the draft his writer had ,turned in and asked Larry if as a favor, he’d read it and offer his suggestions. Larry said sure (Larry always said sure). The script was delivered to him Friday at 5:30. No, he didn’t call back with his reaction at 6:30. He waited until Monday morning. But he said he had so many problems with it that instead of just scribbling down some notes he took the liberty of REWRITING the whole screenplay himself. Unbelievable. Even Mozart didn’t compose an opera over the weekend. Larry said use what you like. Donan used every word.

A similar story: For rewrites we would dictate to our assistant, Ruth, who was lightening quick. There was a big Radar speech. Larry started pitching and was just on fire. We were in stitches. Ruth broke in, telling him to slow down. Even she couldn’t write that fast. Larry said, “Just get half” and kept going. The half she didn’t get was better than anything else on television.

Larry always sent thank you notes. Larry always dropped you a line wishing you well on your upcoming project. Larry always returned phone calls. Larry always emailed you right back. Larry even left comments on my blog. I half expect a thank you note for this essay.

His legacy will last forever. His work was timeless, universal, steeped in humanity, and brilliant. MASH will always air eight times a night, TOOTSIE and OH GOD! will forever be on your screens (be they 64” plasmas or 2” iPods), FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, and CITY OF ANGELS will be revived as long as there are stages.

Like any screenwriter, Larry had drawers and drawers of unproduced or unsold or unfinished projects. In June he just had a reading of a pilot he conceived. Last year he mounted a play in Chicago he was shepherding to Broadway. At the time of his death he was adapting one of his films into a musical and one of his musicals into a film. So yes, he left behind an amazing body of work but still we “just got half”.

Many people who knew him felt that Hawkeye Pierce was an idealized version of Larry. I’d like to think one of his other character creations was a more accurate representation of just who he was. God.

Enjoy the work of Larry Gelbart. You will laugh until you hurt. And for those of us who were blessed to have known him, we will hurt until we laugh.


Max Clarke said...

Well done, Ken. Larry would have sent a thank-you note.

Shelia said...

Beautiful. I wish I'd known him. He makes Hollywood (this crazy industry I'm trying to break into) seem much more human.

Anonymous said...

Very nicely done. It's a tremendous loss and a wonderful legacy.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Thank you Ken. Thank you Larry.

gottacook said...

The Blythe Danner episode was my favorite too, as I think I wrote in reply to a post here several years ago...

"Like any screenwriter, Larry had drawers and drawers of unproduced or unsold or unfinished projects..." I really hope this material is in good hands with respect to possible production, if any. [Not that I would compare him with Gelbart for any other reason, but Gene Roddenberry also had some unused ideas, two of which became syndicated series (Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict). These may have detracted from rather than added to his reputation; there seems to be no continuing fan base for them after a number of years out of production.]

Arlen Peters said...

When an individual of renown passes, it often causes me a moment of reflection … a time to read their obituary and let their accomplishments wash over me. And then I move on with my life.
Maybe because I have dabbled in comedy and have always appreciated comedians, comic actors, satirists, et al … but when an individual of renown from the world of comedy passes, it has a profound effect on me. As if a close, dearly loved part of my family has died. Strangely, as if a part of me has died.
Such is the case with Larry Gelbart. I never met the man. I did see him in person a few times, being interviewed, on a panel. And I was deeply impressed by how effortlessly he would answer a question, with crackling wit, a touch of acerbity, an air of sophistication. The key word was effortlessly. The thoughts rolled off his tongue. The mind so quick. Few people have that ability … and even fewer can channel it into great wit and humor.
We live in a time that begs for more humor. And yet it is a scarcer and scarcer commodity. I don’t get what passes for humor today. The Apatow school of comedy is not a school I care to attend. To me, it is a school devoid of laughs, a school that lowers the bar deep into the toilet.
For me, the “Caltech of Comedy” is the school that graduated Brooks and Reiner, Simon and Allen, Tolken and Stewart, Keller and Belkin. And Gelbart.
I could write comedy for 100 years and I would never touch the greatness of this man. From Caesar to MASH, from OH GOD to TOOTSIE, from FORUM to SLY FOX. His comedic words were truly magnificent. His body of work incomparable.
I will leave it for people like Ken Levine (who was so blessed to learn at the feet of such greatness) to speak of the man. From my perspective I can only say that my life is richer, my smile broader for having known the work of Larry Gelbart. And isn’t it wonderful to know that at this very moment, there are people all over this world who are smiling and laughing and forgetting their problems because of the words of Larry Gelbart.
Heaven just got MUCH funnier!

C. A. Bridges said...

I went into this in more detail elsewhere, but Larry Gelbart caused me, watching M-A-S-H episodes at the age of 10, to finally realize with a shock that other people actually wrote the words the actors said. Hawkeye and Trapper and BJ were all funnier and more human when Gelbart's name was on the credits.

I wrote him a gushing fanboy letter last year, and now I'm very glad I did.

David K. M. Klaus said...

When I was seventeen, I had notions of someday becoming a writer for television, and I liked this new show, M*A*S*H, so I sent a letter to the studio asking if there were a Writer's Guide, knowing there had been one for the show which first gave me the notion that I'd like to try writing for t.v., Star Trek.

I received a personal letter from him, saying no, there was no Writer's Guide, but enclosed was a copy of the script for the pilot episode, and he looked forward to seeing any submission I wanted to send.

My attempts at story outlines were so miserable that I never tried to subject an agent to the torture of reading them, much less Mr. Gelbart. Then while I was away on a trip, my grandmother threw out the script and my story attempts during housecleaning.

I had almost forgotten the whole incident, not thinking about it in literally decades, until you mentioned how he never let a call or letter go unanswered and reminded me. I can testify to the truth of it.

I am so sorry for your loss, Mr. Levine.

Brian Scully said...

That's maybe the nicest eulogy I have ever read, Ken... and makes me feel the loss even more of a man I was never lucky enough to meet. He sounded like a nice and funny guy, and that's a damn rare combination, in this business... and in this world.

Wojciehowicz said...

MASH was the single biggest adult television program in my life when I was a kid, the only one my parents let me stay up to watch with them, and the only one that consistently won out over ever other show in reruns. If MASH was on, then forget everything else, MASH was being watched.

Gelbart being gone is just one more sad sign of how old I've gotten, how much time is between now and those days of sitting next to my mom on the couch, and how much less there seems to be in the world. MASH was never going to reproduced, but as long as writers like Gelbart were around, you could at least hope a few more would be created in their image.

Not to bring you down, but I'm not as keen on the writers in my generation as I am the ones who created the things I watched on TV as a kid. Those programs still communicated those things that today's TV does, but they did it by working subversively around the tighter societal conventions of the time and so to do it as skillfully as MASH and the like, it took a lot of smarts and skill.

Gelbart showed that skill. One more reminder of the recession of a time I had no problem turning on network television.

scottmc said...

The post by Arlen Peters said a lot of what I was feeling, "I can only say that my life is richer, my smile broader for having known the work of Larry Gelbart... Heaven just got MUCH funnier!"
There is a famous story; Milt Kamen brings Woody Allen into the CAESER'S HOUR writing room and introduces him as 'the young Larry Gelbart' and Gelbart says 'I thought I was the young Larry Gelbart'.
Two of Larry Gelbart's eulogies are included in the book 'Farewell, Godspeed'-a collection of notable eulogies. One was for Jack Lemmon-which includes a wonderful, touching last line.
The other for Billy Wilder includes things that Gelbart learned from Wilder, among them were;
* Remember what worked before. Then forget it.
*If what you are writing isn't likely to offend or annoy anyone at all, go back and start again.
*Once you've told your characters who they are, let them speak for themselves.
*If an audience has the intelligence to buy a ticket to your work, return that intelligence with the very best of your own.
*Have a healthy disregard for conventional wisdom, which never has a clue about the value of unconventional whimsy.
* Keep thinking of ways to improve your screenplay long after its been filmed,perhaps even forgotten. It's no help for what you've done in the past, but it's great practice for what you might do in the future.
*Be generous in acknowledging the contribution of your collaborators. Sharing credit with someone enhances rather than reduces your own.
* One final thought: There is nothing in this world as overrated as having the last laugh.

I hope very much that this month's Emmy Awards and next year's Academy Awards single him out-beyond just including him in the list of those who have recently passed away.

Mel Ryane said...

I have a feeling he's read this from somewhere afar and I have a feeling he's as proud to know you as you were blessed to know him.

You have picked up the mantle, as must we all, by being kinder and more civilized.

Take comfort in the influence you received. It is a sad loss.

Unknown said...

Your tribute made me laugh two or three times, that probably would have made Larry Gelbart proud..

A. Buck Short said...

It’s always nice to hear someone whose work you admire is kind – a truly underrated virtue. From the interviews on PBS, etc. you could also assume he was unassuming. The smile in the photo you chose confirms the veracity of every quality you mentioned.

Ken, beyond this eulogy, you should feel even more personally blessed that of the various media in which you’ve worked, the internet also provided you with opportunities to publicly honor him during his own lifetime. That doesn’t always happen.

I remember going to a road show performance of Forum with Godfrey Cambridge, of all people in the Zero Mostel role and Jack Gilford, well in the Jack Gilford role. I can’t remember the circumstances, might have been an auto accident, but Cambridge had broken his leg the night before and did the rest of the run on crutches. It seemed a fair trade, Cambridge broke his leg and Gelbart had me in stitches.

Tim W. said...

Even if he had no talent whatsoever, it sounds like he would be greatly missed. That's the mark of a good man.

Mike said...

From the April/May '09 Written By magazine, I was so touched by this interview with Larry (this starts on pg. 26 of the hardcopy version):

Phil Rosenthal: ...Larry, you just told me about the show that was "too relatable."

Larry: A writer was telling me that after he had written a pilot, the network criticism was that the work was too relatable to an audience. They wanted a hook. A twist. Something outside ordinary experience to make it more arresting to a public, as though our lives are not arresting enough.

Phil: Do they mean to a young public, do you think?

Larry: I don't know who the public is. There's more than one, as it happens.

Phil: They seem to be only interested in a certain demo.

Larry: Why don't we do a masturbation reality show? Have a big jerk off? I mean seriously, what does a 12-year-old boy know?

Phil: But the movies seem to be geared that way. It's not just TV. Everything seems to be geared that way.

Larry: That'll go. They'll be 13 next year. Television? Is that aimed for 12 year olds? A 12-year-old today is 24, and the six-year-old is a 12-year-old. Innocence ends with conception.

Phil: The saying is, Write what you know. So this is how I've lived my life and done my work. To use the words "too relatable" is to just cancel the writing. Cancel the writing. We'll just have a CGI puppet show.

Larry: It really cancels your life. It means all of your experience was for naught. Not just your writing experience; your personal experience, as well. It is the case of catering to an arrested development. Which is probably a plug for a show I never saw.

Phil: A very good show that was, I believe, canceled because it wasn't relatable enough.

Larry: They get you coming...

Phil: And going.

Larry: There are people lying awake at night trying to think of new ways to insult me. As a writer, as an audience. You're never too old to be surprised. You expect everything, and you get it. There's an infinite capacity for being screwed over.

Richard Stayton: Yet both of you keep going.

Larry: I can't turn my head off. Either you're somebody who only bets when you go to the track, or [you're somebody] who's just a dreamer. You take dictation from your own mind, from your observations, from whatever your essence is. But I can be discouraged. Frequently am. But I refuse to stop writing until I'm unalterably required to.

Phil: So what's your advice to people in the terrible economic times that we seem to be plowing into? It's easy enough to be insulted in good times...

Larry: ...when it's free! Never make the mistake of equating old age for wisdom. I can be blindsided. I am all the time. I don't have any advice for young people except, "You'll get over it." The question you're asked most when you're on the senior circuit is, "How do you start" My question, more and more, is "How do you finish?" Isaac Bashevis Singer had a great line for struggling writers, young writers. He said, "Stop struggling and write." Which is good and very neat, but I think whatever the times-tough economically, lush, plush, whatever-you really have to write your own scenario.
God bless you, Larry.

Mike said...

By the way, Ken, just wanted to share this with you...

I was having a horrendously shitty day the other day. I was sitting at my desk trying to put out fires, watching the Cubs game on WGN out of the corner of my eye. The game ends (Cubs Win!), and they go to an episode of Cheers. The scene coming right out of the "We now join this program already in progress" is Norm coming through the front door of the bar wearing a toga.

I just want you to know, that just turned everything around. Made my day.

God bless you, too.

Mike in Seattle

Harry said...

He may have been the most versatile funny writer there ever was. I treasure two movies he cowrote that aren't being mentioned in all the obits--THE WRONG BOX and MOVIE MOVIE. It's a crime against merriment that neither is available on DVD.

A few years ago, after seeing a production of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, I dropped him a brief note of appreciation. And yup, I got a prompt, thoughtful e-mail in response. A modest one, too: He said that "It's nice to know that entertainment can be such an effective way of touching people in a way that is all but invisible."


David said...

It's always nice to hear that someone who was such a legend was actually a nice person.

And he wrote TOOTSIE which I think is hands down the best film comedy of all time.

Toby O'B said...

Thank you for such a heart-felt tribute. I'll be sharing the link at several other sites I frequent so that others can see the man in your eulogy, something you don't get from an obit notice....

barnet said...

Thanks Ken,

That was the man. we'll not see his like again.

Bob Whitney said...

Your essay fills me with envy for not knowing such a unique and special guy up so close. Of course, we all knew some of him from way back here. And a special writer's Mahalo for that simply super last paragraph.

Willy B. Good said...

An entire Mash episode in one night, all I can say is wow. Great to read Larry was such a nice guy. Fantastic memories and tribute Ken.

Howard Hoffman said...

He's still at The Gates cracking St. Peter up. Thanks for sharing, Ken.

cb said...

I hate eulogies...this was perfect. And didn't Dave Hackel do David and Lynn's (also legendary) ? Sadness and laughs. Life

rob! said...

Beautiful tribute Ken.

Mr. Gelbart actually bothered to leave a comment once on my MASH blog. To say I was "stunned" when I saw his name in my in-box is an understatement of the word. I simply couldn't believe THE LARRY GELBART bothered to look at my blog, even once.

Toni said...

Lovely, Ken. I especially liked how nice he was in an industry that finds that sort of thing unseemly.

Alex said...

What a sad loss. We've created an online tribute page so fans can leave lasting memorials

LouOCNY said...

As 'just a person' who has always enjoyed every thing Larry Gelbart has ever done, I can only reconcile the loss of his talent and humanity with the idea, somewhere right now, he might be working with George Kaufman right now for for something for the Marx Brothers to do....Larry might even find something funny for Zeppo to do!

WV: hymles - the deli they are getting their take out from....

Rich said...

Beautifully done, Ken

Michael said...

Larry would be calling at 6:30 to say what a great eulogy that was, and that he feels as though he found someone to succeed him. To think: anyone who knows anything about great comedy knows about Larry Gelbart. You KNEW him. What a blessing.

Joe said...

In LG's case, M*A*S*H gets 99% of the attention is understandable, but to me, Tootsie is so achingly brilliant that I'm glad you mentioned it.

That he was a kind, good man is even better. One can be a schmuck or a mensch but nobody mourns the schmucks.

Dawn said...

Thank you for this Ken. I basically grew up loving his work. Glad to hear he was also such a great person to know.

Tootsie is my favorite movie - I think it is the funniest movie rarely mentioned in the 'top movie lists'.

Tom Quigley said...

Wonderful tribute, Ken. He would have been unique in any field into which he might have gone.

The Funeral Lady said...

What a wonderful tribute! I had the good fortune of meeting Larry when I worked at HBO. He remains one of the nicest people I've ever met in the entertainment industry. I am grateful that his words will live on for generations to come...

Ronnie said...

Thank you for sharing! I clipped and tacked to my bulletin board years ago a portion of an interview with Mr. Gelbart - when asked what kept him writing, he replied: "It's the only way I know of finding out how I really feel about anything." Thanks for all those feelings, and RIP, Mr. G!

Mike Bell said...

Well put.

Michael Zand said...

Here's my Larry Gelbart story. I had my fifteen minutes of fame in 1981 when I produced and acted in the West Coast premier of a play called "NUTS."
The production was a huge hit and we managed to move it from an Equity Waiver house to a large 300 seat theater where it ran for a year. After the show we had lot celebs come backstage to congratulate us on the show every night. Larry was one of them and he couldn't have been more gracious and kind.

Now here's the amazing part. Over the years, I'm talking ten, fifteen years, at a stretch I would run into Larry usually at the theater. Every time, not only did he remember me, but he treated me as an equal and as a friend. I had transitioned into writing by then and he would actually talk shop with a nobody like me.

He was such a class act. What can I say? Larry Gelbart moved me.

Rose Vanden Eynden said...

What a lovely tribute, Ken. I have tears in my eyes. I feel I know Larry even better now, and his loss is even greater because of that.

Sending you peace and healing.

blogward said...

A sad, sad loss and a fine tribute. But look at all the fond memories, laughter and joy coming out in the comments. Now that's something the internet doesn't see every day.

WV: extica = the shelf in the bookshop where you won't find "'The Story of 'O'"

James Patrick Joyce said...

"Enjoy the work of Larry Gelbart. You will laugh until you hurt. And for those of us who were blessed to have known him, we will hurt until we laugh."


Mo said...

I was a huge MASH fan growing up. Still am.

I didn't know much about Larry Gelbart. And now that I've read several tributes, I feel that I missed out.

Kirk said...

Demi Moore: She's in love with you.

Michael Caine: She just thinks she's in love with me.

Demi Moore: If she thinks she's in love with you, than she's in love with you.

The above is from BLAME IT TO RIO. I just love the simplicity of it.

Jeff Cohen said...

Beautiful, Ken. I knew Larry just a little bit, and I know how much I'll miss him--I can only imagine it'll be worse for you. He was the rarest of combinations: a brilliant talent and a nice man.

I blogged about him at today if you're interested. Thanks for saying it better than I did.

And yes, I did tell him that "The More I See You" was my favorite MASH, and that seemed to please him a lot. I've actually taught it in screenwriting classes.

benson said...

I know I'm repeating what others have said, but it's true, the measure of a man, in part, is the way he treats others along the way, and, it obvious, here was a giant.

Anonymous said...

his barbarians at the gate was a odel of how to to exposition and make it interesting

Rory L. Aronsky said...

For a few weeks, before a deadline extension was granted on a book I'm co-writing (my first book, so the pressure sits heavily, especially since it's to be published in January 2011), I became addicted to all forms of sitcoms. I rediscovered many favorite episodes of "M*A*S*H" from the early seasons and through Larry Gelbart's efforts and sometimes his words, I was reminded that though writing may be tough for me in this instance (it's a little easier now), the joy of words should always prevail. I heard that in his dialogue, saw that in his characters, and while words and myself are still somewhat estranged, I feel like there's an understanding now. Just do it and see what comes out, with the hope that maybe something better appears while examining the initial result. The stories you told about Gelbart in this entry, Ken, are equal inspiration.

Suzanne said...

What an amazing man. How lucky for you both to have known each other.

ajm said...

I regret never having met Larry in person, but I'm grateful he quickly (and warmly) responded to my various posts on, and that we even exchanged a few e-mails.

impwork said...

Oh God! is on a level so few comedies reach. Intelligent and funny. The change the weather gag is an all time favourite of mine. A sad loss.

Brian Phillips said...

Thank you for a wonderful tribute. It's nice to know that an immense talent was owned by a good man. That includes Mr. Gelbart, too, by the way.

Brian Phillips said...

Was and is. Oops!

bevo said...

If you read the book, "Barbarians at the Gate," then you realize the power of Larry Gelbart's understanding of how and what to write.

The book focuses on Ross Johnson, and casts him as the central figure of the buyout drama that unfolds in the last half. The author provides insight into what motivated Johnson to instigate, at that time, the largest LBO in corporate history.

Riveting stuff?

Gelbart created dialogue to drive a different message than what existed in the book.

While Gelbart generated other work, it is all fiction. With his adaptation of Barbarians at the Gate, Gelbart created a wonderful piece that from a non-fiction source. That's talent.

bmfc1 said...

Around 1980, I wrote to Marvin Kitman of Newsday to ask him whether or not "United States" would return to NBC. A few weeks later, Larry Gelbart sent me a hand-written letter thanking me for liking the show. I didn't know that Kitman had sent it to Larry, yet he still took the time to write to me.

scottmc said...

I just read that marquees of the Broadway theatres will be dimmed tonight,Sept. 15, at 8 PM for one minute to pay tribute to Larry Gelbart.

Dr. Leo Marvin said...


John Kishline said...

I got to know Larry when I understudied John Mahoney and Mike Nussbaum for the run of Larry's play, BETTER LATE, at Northlight last year. He was there for the previews and each night for about two weeks we both sat and/or stood watching the performance from the house right aisle. Over time we came to share perceptions of the progress of the production, sometimes only by a nod and a smile if one of his lines landed well with that audience. He was like a kid in a candy store who still remembered he invented the candy but never tired of the sweet fix of a good laugh. There were always comments after the applause and he was kind enough to answer the questions I asked.

Larry came back near the end of the run to show the piece to his wife Pat, and it happened that I had to go on that night because the doctor had thrown Mike in the hospital for chest pains that turned out to be rib strain from too many push ups or something like that. I had about 6 hours notice and Kimbrough and Mahoney were kind enough to run my scenes in the afternoon. As I sat nervously in my dressing room, Larry knocked and entered and asked how I was and soothed me with a smile and the balm of a few kind words. He made me laugh, told me to break a leg and left. I plodded through the scenes and didn't blow any lines and we took a bow and everyone said kind things. I changed and went next door to collect a beer from Steve Key, who played my son and had cheered me on. I went to the bar and ordered and Larry came up and grabbed my hand and praised me way too much for what I did and what he had seen with the tall Aryan guy playing the role instead of Mike. We all sat and talked and laughed and Larry cracked wise with that great timing he possessed. The guy had no pretense. He was kind and generous and funny and what else do you need to know about anyone? I'll miss him.
John Kishline

Vern Rochon said...

I am not often moved by the loss of someone I haven't known personally, but this is different.

I was a MASH fan during the 70's, when I was a kid. I didn't know who Larry Gelbart was at the time, but I knew I LOVED what I was seeing on TV every week.

The first time I saw OH, GOD!, I declared it one of my favorite movies of all time. Slowly, I began to realize the importance of the person who WROTE these things.

During the 1990's, I was fairly active with the MASH newsgroup, and I responded to Larry's request for MASH memorabilia, and I sent him a MASH coffee mug that I'd had for years.

In gracious response, he sent me an autographed copy of the MASH pilot and a thank you note written to me personally. Me. A NOBODY. And he took the time, and sent me a treasure!

I cried when I read your tribute. What a loss. Oh my god.

Thank you, Ken, for your work, and I extend my deepest sympathies.

Vern Rochon

Valerie Smith said...

Dear Ken:
How wonderful to read your excellent obituary, as well as all the subsequent comments. I still remember the time I discovered the 25th anniversary reunion of the show, when everyone gathered together to share their memories of the show. That was SO good, and I'm glad it gets repeated occasionally. MASH was one of the best shows on TV, bar none. Oh, God was wonderful as well - especially resonating with the Baha'i community for all the great lines it included, such as "Jesus was My Son, Mohammed was My Son, etc."

And thanks to whomever posted the tribute link; I will visit there as well.

I'm also reminded of the quotation attribute to the Qur'an: "He deserves paradise who makes his companions laugh." Larry Gelbart certainly did, and certainly does. My appreciation to him.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I saw CITY OF ANGELS one night in 1990. When we were at dinner later, my wife was combing through the play's program. She saw a familiar face, pointed to it, and told me, "That guy was talking to me while you were in the restroom at intermission." It was Larry Gelbart, chatting up my wife! I'd been a Gelbart fan for years and couldn't believe I'd missed an opportunity to meet him. A couple of years later, I emailed him about it and told him what a fan I was, and he promptly replied with a thank-you email. Ken, you're right -- what a guy!

Unknown said...

Mel Brooks, who worked with him in the early 1950s, called Larry Gelbart the "fastest of the fast, the wittiest man in the business".

During the filming of Tootsie, when he fell out with the star, Dustin Hoffman, Gelbart fashioned a typically mordant put-down:

"Never work with an Oscar winner who is shorter than the statue."

And I am TOO a robot.