- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Carl Reiner, 78, will receive this year's Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The work of Mr. Reiner an author, actor, writer and director "displays a deep understanding of human comedy," the center said yesterday.

The actor joked yesterday by phone from his home in California: "It's pretty amazing when you think of all the people in the world who could get this award and probably deserve it more. But I'm glad they're not getting it."

Mr. Reiner notes he is a fan of Twain's. "I understand you get a bust of him [as part of the award]," he says. "I'm going to love having him in the house."

He says he was surprised by the award because the two previous recipients, Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters, are stand-up comics.

In explaining Mr. Reiner's selection, the Kennedy Center said: "His brilliant writing and characterizations on the television series 'Your Show of Shows,' starring Sid Caesar, are still the hallmark against which all sketch comedy is measured."

Mr. Reiner says he believes he was "defined by the fact I did 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.' "

The show, which ran for five seasons after its creation by Mr. Reiner in 1961 and has been in syndication ever since, earned him seven of his 12 Emmys, three for writing and four for producing-creating. He also played the vain television series host in it.

The Kennedy Center noted that Mr. Reiner gave Mary Tyler Moore "the opportunity and guidance to bring to life Laura Petrie" on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

It also credited Mr. Reiner with "charting the path for women's roles in television, which led to shows such as 'Kate and Allie,' 'Murphy Brown' and 'Ally McBeal.' " He also was cited for showcasing the talents of comedians Steve Martin, George Burns and Lily Tomlin in his film directing.

His collaboration with Mel Brooks on the "2,000-year-old man" recordings was hailed as "in the great comedy tradition of Twain and Voltaire, who used a comic naif to point out our own foibles." The two won a Grammy last year for the CD "The 2,000-Year-Old Man in the Year 2000."

Mr. Reiner's biographical credits are long. In Hollywood, his movies as a writer and director include "Oh, God" (1977) and four Steve Martin films.

He will receive the award Oct. 24.

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