Carl Reiner: Comedy To The Nth Degree

Paul Reiner CBS/The Early Show

Carl Reiner has been making Americans laugh for more than half a century.

One of his earliest claims to fame was "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in the 1960s — he created the show, wrote it, produced it and appeared as Van Dyke's boss, Alan Brady.

Reiner has also been a successful and prolific film director, as well as an actor, most recently in the blockbuster "Oceans Eleven" and "Oceans Twelve."

His latest project is a novel with the title, "NNNNN." Reiner joined co-anchor Harry Smith to talk about the book on The Early Show.

The unusual title is based, in part, on the name of the main character, Nat Noland, who is hard at work on his fifth book, his own version of Genesis, concentrating on the relationship between Cain and Abel.

Reiner told Smith how that idea first started taking shape.

"I started writing this novel about two years ago because I decided to do my version of what happened in the Garden of Eden," he said. "The fellow who wrote that way back when — 5,000 years ago — didn't have the information that I have today.

"I know where electricity comes from. So I decided to write my version of Genesis."

As the idea developed, it was the book's protagonist who took over the explorations of Genesis. But Noland turns out to have his own particular quirks.

"Then we decide that the author is a nut because he's talking to himself all the time and doesn't know he's talking to himself," Reiner said. "He talks in two voices."

Noland's wife, Glennie, gets worried when she hears him having a loud, heated discussion while he's alone in the basement. So she encourages him to seek the help of the famous Viennese psychiatrist Dr. Frucht. Noland eventually heads off on a quest to discover his unknown past, and perhaps a long-lost twin.

"NNNNN" comes nearly half a century after Reiner's first novel, "Enter Laughing," published in 1958.

To read an excerpt from "NNNNN," click here.
  • Polly Leider

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