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Beloved comedy legend Carl Reiner dead at 98

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Carl Reiner, the ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” has died, according to reports. (Photo: CNN via CNN Newsource)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (SBG) — Comedic legend and "Dick Van Dyke Show" creator Carl Reiner has passed away at the age of 98, multiple sources confirm.

Celebrity website TMZ said the Hollywood icon died Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by family members. Reiner was an ingenious writer, producer, director and actor; plus the recipient of multiple awards in his career that spanned across seven decades.

Carl Reiner was born in 1922, in New York City’s borough of the Bronx, one of two sons of Jewish immigrants: Irving Reiner, a watchmaker, and his wife, Bessie. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood, where he learned to mimic voices and tell jokes. After high school, Reiner attended drama school, then joined a small theater group.

“It was a terrific experience, but I wasn’t getting any money for it,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal in 1963. “I got uppity one day — after all, the audience was paying from 22 to 88 cents for admission — and I demanded to be paid. They settled for $1 a performance and I ... became their highest-priced actor.”

He married his wife, Estelle, in 1943. Besides son Rob, the couple had another son, Lucas, a film director, and a daughter, Sylvia, a psychoanalyst and author. Estelle Reiner, who died in 2008, had a small but memorable role in Rob Reiner’s “When Harry Met Sally...” — as the woman who overhears Meg Ryan’s ersatz ecstasy in a restaurant and says, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

During World War II, Reiner joined the Army and toured South Pacific bases in GI variety shows for a year and a half. Back out of uniform, he landed several stage roles, breaking through on Broadway in “Call Me Mister.”

Reiner broke onto the scene as a "second banana" to Sid Caesar, eventually rising to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man," The Associated Press reports.

Reiner's assistant, Judy Nagy, said Reiner died of natural causes. Father to actor-director Rob Reiner, he proved to be one of show business’ best liked men.

The tall, bald Reiner was a welcome face on the small and silver screens, appearing in Caesar’s 1950s troupe, as the snarling, toupee-wearing Alan Brady of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and in such films as “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

In recent years, Reiner appeared alongside the likes of George Clooney and the gang in "Ocean's Eleven." He dabbled in documentaries, including “Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age” and “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”

He directed films like “Oh, God!” starring George Burns and John Denver; “All of Me,” with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin; and the 1970 comedy “Where’s Poppa?”

He also had a particular fondness for his books, including his autobiographical novel later adapted into a film and Broadway show "Enter Laughing;” and his 2003 memoir “My Anecdotal Life." He recounted his childhood and creative journey ten years later in his book, “I Remember Me.”

Despite several films and books, many remember the Emmy award-winning actor for "The Dick Van Dyke Show," one of the most popular television series of all time, exemplifying "the model of ensemble playing, physical comedy and timeless, good-natured wit."

“The Van Dyke show is probably the most thrilling of my accomplishments because that was very, very personal,” Reiner once said. “It was about me and my wife, living in New Rochelle and working on the Sid Caesar show."

Van Dyke starred in the series as a television comedy writer working for a demanding, eccentric boss (Reiner) and living with his wife (Mary Tyler Moore in her first major TV role) and young son in suburban New Rochelle, New York.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this report.