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Catching Up With Carl Reiner

'Enjoy the good times, and walk away from the bumps'

A Conversation with Carl Reiner

Ramona Rosales

Celebrated comedy writer, actor and director Carl Reiner, whose new documentary "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast" will premiere on HBO.

You've been in show business for seven decades. How are you still learning and growing at 95?

I'm writing books; I'm working; I'm discovering new things, new talent. The list of satirical young comedians that make me laugh is always growing, and we need smart satire in this political era. Samantha Bee is a genius. So is Trevor Noah. There are new shows I want to record every night. I love Angie Tribeca, starring Rashida Jones.

You frequent Twitter. Why?

I get a kick out of it. It's one-liners. My first tweet was, "Sometimes I worry about having problems with my short-term memory." My second tweet was, "Sometimes I worry about having problems with my short-term memory." Then Conan O'Brien and I invented the "selfishie." Instead of taking a selfie with someone, you block their face with yours. That got a lot of retweets.

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You and your son Rob Reiner recently put hands and feet in cement together at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Do those moments still have magic for you?

My God, yes. I was so proud. You know, it's one thing for a father to say, 'Oh, my son is great.' But to have others say it — that's the true reward. Robbie's one of the smartest people I know. He's made such fantastic movies.

He directed When Harry Met Sally, which had that unforgettable scene in which your wife, Estelle, says, 'I'll have what she's having.' What have you learned since she passed in 2008?

That life goes on. I wake up and say I've got to do this and that, but it's never easy. The death of your beloved is the hardest time of all. Watching her go — and it took a year — was horrible. Estelle was everything to me. We met when I was 20 and she was 28, and people said it wouldn't last. Sixty-five years later: three kids, five grandchildren, the greatest life and friendship you can imagine.

How do you stay healthy?

Same thing I've been doing for 60 years. When I was 20-something, 30, I fell down a flight of stairs and hurt my back. I went to a therapist, who said don't get out of bed until you do certain stretches, and I've been doing them ever since. I guess I'm the original yogi.

Your mind is obviously still very sharp. Any tricks there?

For years I walked around the block singing all the words to maybe 20 songs from beginning to end, like this Irish one I learned when I was 6: [Starts singing] "I'm a long way from home and my thoughts ever roam, to Ould Erin far over the sea." It's called "That Tumble Down Shack in Athlone." But I can't walk that far anymore.

What is the secret to your enduring career success?

Enjoy the good times, and walk away from the bumps. That's it. Even failures can turn into something positive if you just keep going. I wrote a television pilot called Head of the Family. CBS didn't want it. It was considered a failure. But we reworked it. A year later, it became The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Dick Van Dyke is 91. Your friend Mel Brooks is 90 and performs at places like Radio City Music Hall. Jerry Lewis is 91. We recently lost Don Rickles at 90. Do you think laughter plays a role in longevity?

It doesn't hurt! Well, correction — it might hurt a little. But laughter definitely makes it hurt less.

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