I was a fan of Larry Gelbart before I knew that television shows had writers. M*A*S*H* reruns always made me laugh as a kid. He stopped writing the show after its fourth season, but his fingerprints were on it until the very end. The show seemed to reflect his comic sensibilities always. He also had a hand in the delightful A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a musical comedy about- well, comedy. There was his early years as a writer for Sid Caesar, and his later in life masterpiece, Tootsie. But more than that, he was available to other writers. I’ve spent the last few days reading from other writers about how when they met Larry, he would always be willing to help them out.
I never got the chance to meet Larry Gelbart. He was on my list of people I’d have to dinner in a perfect world. I can hardly believe he’s gone. It was only this year, watching PBS’ invaluable series on American comedy Make ‘Em Laugh, where I saw him looking still spry and as quick-witted as ever ( he was never a dull interview). Now, after a couple of shell shocked months where I have seen many of the idols of my childhood shake off their mortal coil, all I can say to this devastating loss as a fan of comedy is:
Gen. Wilson Spaulding Barker: Nurse, is everybody around here crazy?
Lt. Ginger Bayliss: Everybody who’s sane is, sir.
( M*A*S*H*, “Chief Surgeon Who?”, 1972)
I didn’t say it would be logical.
So long, Larry Gelbart. And thanks. Because of people like you, I wanted to write.