Neil Simon may not have been the funniest guy in the writers room, but he certainly was the most prolific, if not also the most successful of the all-stars from Your Show of Yours in terms of churning out hit scripts. Simon died Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 91.
His publicist, Bill Evans, who had donated a kidney to the legendary comedy writer in 2004 to extend Simon’s life, delivered the news.
Simon was born July 4, 1927, in the Bronx, and grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan. His big break in comedy came when he and his older brother Danny were hired as writers for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, the hit TV comedy show that aired in the 1950s and boasted a writing staff that also included Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and later Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart.
But Broadway was where Neil Simon reigned, writing plays and musicals for five decades, from 1961’s Come Blow Your Horn to 2001’s 45 Seconds From Broadway. In 1966, he had four plays running simultaneously on the Great White Way. In the 1980s, Broadway renamed one of its theaters after him. Mike Nichols often directed his productions in the early years. And Simon made stars out of several actors and actresses.
He wrote for the stage and the screen, sometimes both, including the scripts for The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, The Out-of-Towners, The Sunshine Boys, The Heartbreak Kid, They’re Playing Our Song, I Ought to be In Pictures, Seems Like Old Times, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, The Marrying Man, and Lost in Yonkers.
Simon won the Pulitzer for Lost in Yonkers in 1991. He also won two Emmys, multiple Tonys, a Golden Globe, a lifetime achievement award from the American Comedy Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, and the 2006 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
He shall be missed, but his scripts shall stay with us.