Author of The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys won a Pulitzer and four Tonys, and dominated Broadway for many years
The Pulitzer and Tony-winning playwright Neil Simon has died, it was announced on Sunday. He was 91.
Simon was prolific his hit plays and musicals included The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, Sweet Charity, The Sunshine Boys, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues, which made Matthew Broderick a Broadway and Hollywood star. He was also a prolific author of screenplays, including successful adaptations of The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park. A standard Broadway joke had it that only William Shakespeare wrote more hit plays.
Simon won the Pulitzer in 1991, for Lost in Yonkers, three Tony awards and one for special achievement, and the Mark Twain prize for humour. He was nominated for four screenplay Oscars without winning, but was a Kennedy Center honoree and had a Broadway Theater, the Alvin, named for him in 1983.
In 1997, he told the Washington Post: I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards. Theres no more money anyone can pay me that I need. There are no awards they can give me that I havent won. I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it.
Simon wrote comedy. Born in the Bronx in New York in 1927, he learned his trade in the city, writing jokes for comics including Sid Caesar, whose staff also included the young Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.
It was rich soil in which to grow: in his Paris Review interview, published in 1994, he remembered the screaming and fighting a cocktail party without the cocktails, everyone yelling lines in and out, people getting very angry at others who were slacking off.
Among the first tributes on social media on Sunday, the Seinfeld and Borat writer Larry Charles bracketed Simon with Woody Allen and Brooks as three very similar and yet very different pillars of modern American comedy in the seventies (think Annie Hall, Blazing Saddles and the Odd Couple) all still deeply influential today.
The Star Wars actor Mark Hamill called Simon a GIANT of the American Theatre; Vincent DOnofrio said he was a genius; Elaine Paige said: He truly was the king of Broadway comedy.
News of Simons death came a day after it was announced that John McCain, the Repubican senator and presidential nominee, had died in Arizona, of brain cancer, at the age of 81.