Remembering Neil Simon, A Broadway Legend | NYT News
I don’t know how I started play I probably started with the first sentence I know it’s not going to be there for very long but I have to get opening opening the door a little bit sticking my head in and seeing what’s in there Bill Simon was one of the most popular Define comedy using humor not to entertain but to tell Soulful stories about the frictions of urban life and family intimacy what you got it in your mouth I’ll do the show later date to talk about his work and his life started actually in the Bronx July 4th and always thought from then on that they were celebrating my birthday Simon grew up in nearby Washington Heights and Enclave for working-class Jews before the war but is home life was terrible with a father who is rarely around and a mother who struggle to make ends meet it was no news to me we would have to take in boarders to to help feed us they sat at the table of my mother dinner for them it was rattling really tough for me because I said that my father should be here not these men that they weren’t a nice but it was a very difficult thing to grow up with Simon was older brother Dan a button comedy writer who got him started on his future career together they landed a job writing guides for the 1950s television Legend comedian Sid Caesar in Caesar’s famous Writing Room the young Neil Simon found himself among a who’s who of the future of Funny Mel Brooks Carl Reiner Larry gelbart Mel tolkin and a very young Woody Allen it was an inspiring but tough cast of characters my problem was the shyness I could think of the line but I was going to say like Mel Brooks what I got it I got it that’s what he would do I would have to sit next to Paul Ryan and Whisper it and call the jump up and he says Neal has that Neal has it he says the man walks and then but I’m Pom-Pom whatever it was and they liked it like many in the writers room Simon aspire to do more than write jokes but he saw firsthand how even Caesars most seasons writers had a tough time breaking into theater Mel Culkin the head writer said I got to play I wrote it with Lucille kallen who is another writer on the show it closed in one night and so I say why would I have the gall to write a play when these two really season pay can’t get it on so I said I better write about what I know writing what he knew would lead Simon to help invent a whole new genre The Comedy of urban neuroses his big breakthrough play and screenplay was based on size Prince Life as a newlywed with his wife John Bayne was about getting married and living together for the first time without knowing how to do that and what it’s like when your husband or wife have that first fight and it’s trial it’s just trying to Laugh In the Park became an AC play for me to write because it was a loving play it was about me and Joan she was beautiful she was absolutely beautiful Simon says he met ball game in the Poconos and it was love at first pitch batting and there she is pitching at me should I really have to get a hold of wine and then show her so I swung that long swang-swang at her and hit the ball as hard as I could which dribbles slowly to her and she picked up the ball with a smile and she just waited you got the first base and I’m thankful throw it throw it will you please and she threw it and I should beat me out but we married after that first some of that we met all the things were real there was a staircase that took you up to the top floor of the building and where the the man who spoke a foreign language lived he was on the Meg for for Joan who had nothing to do with him we walking one night with our dog chips in the park and was a warm summer night and she took off her shoes and she was bad for it and that we were walking she said why aren’t you taking off your shoes mine are and I said I don’t feel like it she said now there’s something wrong with you you’re afraid to walk Barefoot in the Park and bingo you know time is next play also came from a source close to home his brother Danny would recently divorced his wife and moved in with a friend named Roy Garber to save money it’s a play in this and he said well what’s the play I said these two guys having more trouble with themselves and they wouldn’t with the way that wives same problem I said one of you is the wife one of you as their husband the nailing a script for The Odd Couple took a lot of trial-and-error as Simon and director Mike Nichols discovered that was the saying I wrote that in the rehearsal they laughed so hard Mike said we’d never be able to put this on because the audiences will die from laughter so we got to that and there wasn’t a single laugh in it and I said what happened Mike he said it’s funny but they don’t like what’s happening they like these people and you’re making them go and weigh that is not not really good for them so I can change that and we got less Labs but more cheers for the for the plate so I started to learn about it that it’s not all about the laughter it’s about the feelings that the audience cats do they like these people do they don’t are they living their lives where or are they not The Odd Couple opened on Broadway in 1965 and became Simon’s most successful work the place Fonda movie starring Walter Matthau is the sportswriting slob Oscar Madison and Jack Lemmon as neat freak Felix Unger the whole marriage we getting an annulment don’t you understand the movie of course led to a popular 1970s TV series with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall Simon had signed away the rights for the TV series Paramount he came to regret this time he was already perhaps Broadway’s biggest and most bankable Ryder in 1966 alone he had four shows running on Broadway at the same time and unrivalled record but just as Simon was topping the the theater he and John got devastating news we got up early in the morning went to the doctor’s office being examined her then he came back in and he says it’s bad but she’s got cancer and and then I start to feel myself rolling and rolling and you’re reaching out to grab on for your life to be able to help her and you can’t you just rolling and rolling I have been married for 19 years her death said Neil reeling and heated mediately thought someone to fill the void marrying four times twice to the same woman I mean otherwise the mistake you made when you’re you’re married someone for 19 years that you helped you going to be married to for 60 years that whole period is so dark for me after number of plays about his failed marriages Simon return to writing about his childhood struggles in Jewish working-class New York what did I tell you about being in the boys is a headache I can’t stop now it’s a crucial moment in World Series history the Yankees are playing the Giants was the first of Simon semi-autobiographical Trilogy about a wisecracking teenager named Eugene it was about growing up idolizing his older brother who’s going to go up to the war and heat the kid didn’t want him to go after the war the trilogy was based on Simon’s own stint in the Army and won his first Tony Award for best play in 1985 purple seems is based on the trip to a brothel Simon made as a eager yet terrified young virgin by was on that line waiting to get in guys waiting for you to screw this one woman you sure you want to do this through your stuff what stuff is that and you do it and you come out or you think of is I’m a man I’ve done it in Broadway bound part 3 of the trilogy the mother gives a fiery speech that channels the turmoil Simon’s on mother writing that was difficult and great because I was making character who never really spoke open but she was not that particular I mean my mother could never come out with us Soliloquy like that and and tear him apart serious critically acclaimed drama the play and the feature film is the story of two young boys forced to live with their domineering grandmother and mentally challenged aunt you just didn’t want to choose and say I think I’ll do a serious play you know you say I wanted to be bigger than than it’s been writing then I don’t need to have it being funny all the time when you have the heartbeat of the play there you can be funny over here and you can be funny over here as long as you don’t touch the heartbeat major Broadway hit it earned him the Pulitzer Prize I never think about getting better so that I will be a better player right so that I will win the Pulitzer Prize so that I will do this never think about you just think get the play there maybe it’ll have a life maybe you’ve done something good for other people hopefully you’ve done something for yourself the wrote the actress whatever it just if you want to get the writing out he want even the things that you think about life onto the stageNeil Simon was one of Broadway’s most successful and bankable writers, writing such hit plays as “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple.”
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