US playwright, ‘king of comedy’ Neil Simon dead at 91

Playwright Neil Simon has died at the age of 91

Neil Simon, the prolific and Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. playwright celebrated as the king of comedy who won more Oscar and Tony nominations combined than any other showbiz writer, died on Sunday.

Many of his works are classics of 20th century American theater and Simon has been credited with playing a seminal role - along with film director Woody Allen - in re-crafting U.S. humor in the 1960s and 1970s.

Big Bang Theory creator Bill Prady said there was "no American comedy writer whose work isn't influenced by the rhythm and music of Neil Simon's words".

It's been reported that Simon passed away on Sunday morning at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, after being on life support. His list of notable plays includes great favorites such as "Barefoot in the Park" (1963), "The Odd Couple" (1965), "The Sunshine Boys" (1972), "They're Playing Our Song" (1979) and "Lost in Yonkers" (1991).

Simon is survived by his wife, actress Elaine Joyce, and his daughters, Nancy, Ellen and Bryn. Many of his plays were adapted into movies and one, "The Odd Couple", became a popular TV series.

According to Broadway World, Neil Simon "has received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer", some 17 Tony nominations with three wins.

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Simon drew on his tumultuous New York Jewish upbringing in many of his works.

"Barefoot in the Park", about a bickering couple inspired by his first marriage, and "The Odd Couple" that followed, were credited with capturing the zeitgeist of the 1960s. But what made Simon's plays work at their best was not just the jokes but the universality of the neurotic relations he mined between men and women, men and men, and parents and children.

Simon was born in 1927 to a working-class family in the Bronx, New York. After serving in the military in 1945 and 1946, he began writing with his brother for radio in 1948, and then for television, a period in their lives chronicled in Simon's 1993 play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Critically well-received, the 1963 comedy, directed by Mike Nichols, concerned the tribulations of a pair of newlyweds, played by Elizabeth Ashley and Robert Redford, who lived on the top floor of a NY brownstone.

His later film career included adaptations of his own plays, like 1968's The Odd Couple starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, for which all three returned for a sequel thirty years later.

"I suspect I shall keep on writing in a vain search for that ideal play".

Josh Gad said that Simon's work, "as both a participant and audience, has defined and shaped me on my own journies and [career] trajectory".

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