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An unfunny thing happened
September 11, 2009 8:00 PM   Subscribe

Larry Gelbart, one of the great stage, screen and television writers has died.
posted by dances_with_sneetches (35 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.
posted by leviathan3k at 8:01 PM on September 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


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for the first man to fight the laugh track (and win).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:03 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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posted by cerebus19 at 8:09 PM on September 11, 2009


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posted by Joe Beese at 8:12 PM on September 11, 2009


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posted by orthogonality at 8:15 PM on September 11, 2009


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posted by hippybear at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2009


I have a collection of people I keep in my head. It's an oddly assembled crowd. Cyd Charisse but not Gene Kelly. Audrey Meadows but not Jackie Gleason. They are people who deposited a bit of joy and never asked for anything in return. If I did learn something about their private lives it didn't ruin the illusion I kept of them. No scandals to forgive, no hackneyed politics. Some of them were political (including Gelbart), but with conviction and a touch of modesty. One by one they are disappearing. Gelbart was one of the few on my list.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:22 PM on September 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


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posted by wendell at 8:33 PM on September 11, 2009


My son's class put a fun production of Forum this past Spring. I hadn't seen it in years and forgot how well written it was. Great stuff. And wow, The Wrong Box was his? And Movie Movie? Darn.

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posted by octothorpe at 8:40 PM on September 11, 2009


Larry Gelbart also fought hard for the Writers' Guild and other creative unions, although with his talent, he didn't need solidarity with other writers.

Blogger Mark Evanier, as he so often does, has some perfect words of remembrance:
He was also funny at age 81. He still had it. Which is one of the reasons why he still worked as much as he wanted to...and maybe even a little bit more than that.

He was a role model. In this line of work, you often have to ask yourself, one way or the other, "Who's career would I like?" Among folks who write comedy, I'd guess the number one answer the last few decades has been Larry Gelbart.
posted by wendell at 8:51 PM on September 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


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posted by zippy at 8:55 PM on September 11, 2009


I don't think I knew this guy's name until it came up in Jane Espenson's twitter feed today -- TV writers, it would seem, have their own pantheon. But looking back over everything he wrote, I'm kind of stunned. I'm envious of a life that includes creating so many stories that meant so much to...well, damn, fucking millions, really...but also speechless when I consider that he was someone who, to most people, was not remotely famous. I mean, he was acknowledged by his peers, sure, but if you can imagine a novelist whose work reached as many people over a period of decades...man, who would that be? Stephen King, maybe? Tom Clancy? John Grisham? You know: The writers normal people have heard of. You're a strange beast, TV/film. So much attention; so much revenue for (some of the) people who keep you running; so little limelight, really, for most of those people. Well, in any event, the self who would watch "M*A*S*H" reruns five nights a week for a year back in the '80s would be unhappy, I think, if I didn't break my normal protocol vis a vis these threads and say

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posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:00 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was lucky enough to be a (very, very small) part of the 1992 UC Irvine production of Gelbart's Mastergate. Thanks for the laughs, sir, and also for the necessary course credits toward my BA.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:11 PM on September 11, 2009


Gelbart apparently married someone with his sense of humor:
He had cancer. Asked to specify what kind, his wife, Patricia Marshall, said, "Just the lethal kind."
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:23 PM on September 11, 2009


OK...complete box set of M*A*S*H* my son bought with his own lawn mowing money, yeah I'm just gonna spend this weekend with you. I hate to see giants fall.
posted by timsteil at 9:42 PM on September 11, 2009


When I was very little, my mother and I ate dinner at a card table in the living room every Monday night so we could watch M*A*S*H--and years later, she brought home A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for me to watch. I had no idea till today they had a guy in common. I'm glad to know it now, though, and to know more about him--and to know that, by all accounts, he was a very decent guy. The world needs more of them.
posted by newrambler at 9:42 PM on September 11, 2009


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posted by LobsterMitten at 9:45 PM on September 11, 2009


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posted by phrits at 9:51 PM on September 11, 2009


Man, I was going to ask him to read my screenplay.
posted by The World Famous at 10:03 PM on September 11, 2009


For those seriously interested in TV and entertainment history, Larry Gelbart's 8-part interview for the Archive of American Television on YouTube is richly rewarding.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:08 PM on September 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


He was on InterNet long before many of the MeFiers reading this. Very active on the MASH related UseNet fora, he was quite approachable and made his personal email address freely available. Helluva nice guy.
posted by RavinDave at 10:11 PM on September 11, 2009


Larry Gelbart often posted in alt.tv.mash, where he continued to show what a great human being he was:

Google Groups profile of his AOL account
Google Groups profile of his Gmail account

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posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:13 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think there are many shows I have watched avidly enough (and I love me some television) that I'd recognize one of the writers' names so instantly. M*A*S*H was definitely one of them. For my entire childhood, as far back as my memory reaches, I watched that show almost every day with my parents (I was born in 1974; it was already being shown in syndicated re-runs by the time I was old enough to remember it now).

Those characters shaped so much of what I find funny today. Larry Gelbart, essentially, helped make me. Bless him for that.
posted by padraigin at 10:24 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


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Incredible comic writer.

I was lucky enough to be a (very, very small) part of the 1992 UC Irvine production of Gelbart's Mastergate. Thanks for the laughs, sir, and also for the necessary course credits toward my BA.

Which I saw, and thought was hilarious.

posted by thomas j wise at 4:48 AM on September 12, 2009


(derail:

although with his talent, he didn't need solidarity with other writers.

The purpose of unions is not parasitism.)

posted by DU at 5:03 AM on September 12, 2009


.*.*.*.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:43 AM on September 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


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And another of the legends from Sid Caesar's writer's room leaves us. Let's hope they're all sitting around in heaven, eating His Own Pastrami and arguing over this week's script.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:27 AM on September 12, 2009


I have a short list of places I'd like to go back in time and inhabit, whether as a fly on the wall or an active participant. Sid Caesar's writers' room is near the top of that list. Aside from Gelbart, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Carl Reiner, consider:

Most people, though, think of early sketch TV as a writer's medium. Indeed, the Caesar shows may be remembered less for their terrific sketches than for the later careers of the people who wrote them. Gelbart: "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" on Broadway, "Oh, God!" and "Tootsie" in the movies, "M*A*S*H" on TV. Tolkin: "All in the Family" (he wrote 36 episodes). Aaron Ruben directed "The Phil Silvers Show," produced "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Sanford and Son." Gary Belkin wrote scripts for "Newhart" and "Sesame Street." Lucille Kallen wrote the C.B. Greenfield mystery novels. Selma Diamond became a familiarly rasping voice on Jack Paar's late show and lots of cartoons. Joe Stein and Mike Stewart went to Broadway; one wrote the book for "Fiddler on the Roof," the other "Bye Bye, Birdie," "Hello, Dolly" and "Barnum." Brooks and Simon and Reiner you've heard of; and Woody Allen, who came in toward the end of Caesar's nine-year reign.

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posted by Shotgun Shakespeare at 8:00 AM on September 12, 2009


With all due respect to Morgan Freeman, I don't think there will ever be a better on-screen God than George Burns. Thank you, Mr. Gelbart, for putting such funny words in His mouth.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:08 AM on September 12, 2009


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posted by RussHy at 8:19 AM on September 12, 2009


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posted by HumanComplex at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2009


He was only with M*A*S*H the first four seasons... and it shows.

Another great sitcom writer gone. They're almost extinct now.
posted by Zambrano at 8:31 AM on September 12, 2009


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posted by mikelieman at 8:33 AM on September 12, 2009


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posted by Halloween Jack at 9:56 AM on September 12, 2009


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posted by ubiquity at 12:18 PM on September 12, 2009


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