Carl Reiner became the oldest-ever nominee for an Emmy Award in July – for his role, appropriately enough, narrating and appearing in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” about people staying active into their 90s and beyond.
Reiner, 96, won his first Emmy in 1957 – for “Caesar’s Hour” – and his last in 1995, for a guest performance on “Mad About You.” The writer, producer, director and actor was also inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame four years later, giving him a dozen honors – four, he noted in an interview, for each of his three kids after he’s gone.
Divvying up a 13th Emmy would be a high-class problem, but if it arises, Reiner knows who to credit and blame: His nephew by marriage, George Shapiro, the veteran talent manager who produced “Seinfeld,” and who suggested that Reiner work with him on a documentary that was to be tentatively titled “Vital After 90.”
Having seen his name in the obituary of a former co-star, Reiner provided the new, considerably funnier title, proceeding to interview a host of nonagenarians, including longtime friends Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Dick Van Dyke.
The documentary contemplated reasons for longevity, with Reiner concluding that laughter, good friends and the right spouse are all high on the list. He also cited the importance of staying active, something he has done by prolifically continuing to write books, with three more currently in the works or due to be released.
“If you wake up and have a project, you stay alive,” he said.
For all the hats he’s worn in his long career, from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” to directing several Steve Martin movies, Reiner said he considers himself “basically an emcee,” someone who can point the audience’s eye in the right direction.
He’s still an active consumer of movies, old and new, frequently getting together with Brooks to watch them.
Like his son, director Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner remains a staunch and outspoken critic of President Trump, using his Twitter feed to weigh in regarding politics. Earlier this year he published “The Downing of Trump,” assembled from his tweets and those of others.
Asked if he’s ever tempted to tune out the news, Reiner said, “If you have to tune that out, you have to tune everything out. It means you don’t care anymore.”
Reiner said he won’t be attending the Emmys in September – “I don’t travel well,” he quipped – and sounded bemused to even be in a position to need to. In the documentary, he concludes, “If you can’t laugh, life would be pretty empty.”
Based on that criteria, Emmy or no, the latest milestone is a reminder of all that Reiner has done to ensure that everyone’s life is a little fuller.