Ken Levine has written a primer on the man who we believe was the most influential comedy writer of the 20th Century. Share it with your friends!
by Ken Levine
Back from two weeks in Europe. During my trip I saw that Neil Simon had passed away but I was on the run and unable to really address it at the time. Now I’m home and now I have some thoughts.
First of all, it’s no secret that I was a huge admirer of Neil Simon. I wrote an appreciation of him several years ago for this blog. You can find it here. That led to TCM inviting me to host their Neil Simon Film Festival, which I take as a real honor.
I was struck last week by all the social media tributes by comedy writers. Like me, they all point to Neil Simon as their primary inspiration. Wait, let me amend that – all comedy writers of a certain age. I don’t know if many young comedy writers hold him in the same esteem. But they should.
Because no one wrote funnier dialogue, all in service of characters and attitudes, and all designed to move the story forward. So much of his stuff still holds up today because the themes are universal and the comedy comes out of reality.
As proof that the world considers comedy less valuable than drama, even Neil Simon never got the respect he deserved. Yes, he won Tonys, and Pulitzers, and scores of other awards, but even in a lot of tribute articles I read he’s lauded primarily for his plays being so “popular.” Yeah, Mozart’s compositions had a following….