Comedy master Neil Simon dies at 91

Monday, August 27, 2018
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In this Sept. 22, 1994 file photo American playwright Neil Simon answers questions during an interview in Seattle, Wash. Simon, a master of comedy whose laugh-filled hits dominated Broadway for decades, died on Sunday at age 91.

NEW YORK (AP) — Playwright Neil Simon, a master of comedy whose laugh-filled hits such as "The Odd Couple," ''Barefoot in the Park" and his "Brighton Beach" trilogy dominated Broadway for decades, has died. He was 91.

Simon died early Sunday of complications from pneumonia at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, said Bill Evans, a longtime friend.

In the second half of the 20th century, Simon was the American theater's most successful and prolific playwright, often chronicling middle class issues and fears. Starting with "Come Blow Your Horn" in 1961 and continuing into the next century, he rarely stopped working on a new play or musical.

Simon's stage successes included "The Prisoner of Second Avenue," ''Last of the Red Hot Lovers," ''The Sunshine Boys," ''Plaza Suite," ''Chapter Two," ''Sweet Charity" and "Promises, Promises." But there were other plays and musicals, too — more than 30 in all.

For seven months in 1967, he had four productions running at the same time on Broadway: "Barefoot in the Park"; "The Odd Couple"; "Sweet Charity"; and "The Star-Spangled Girl."

Simon was the recipient of four Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Kennedy Center honors (1995), four Writers Guild of America Awards and an American Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievement honor.

In 1983, he had a Broadway theater named after him, and in 2006, he won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The bespectacled, mildlooking Simon was a relentless writer — and rewriter. In the introduction to one of the many anthologies of his plays, he wrote: "I am most alive and most fulfilled sitting alone in a room, hoping that those words forming on the paper in the Smith-Corona will be the first perfect play ever written in a single draft."

He was a meticulous joke smith, peppering his plays, especially the early ones, with comic one-liners and humorous situations.

"I don't write social and political plays, because I've always thought the family was the microcosm of what goes on in the world," he told The Paris Review in 1992.