‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ creator Carl Reiner says he celebrated turning 97 ‘by staying alive’

Carl Reiner turned the big 9-7 on March 20 and there was one way he wanted to celebrate his birthday.

“By staying alive!” the comedian recently told Closer Weekly. “Today, I woke up thinking about a dish I haven’t eaten in a long time. We used to have a house in the south of France, and the first day we arrived we always had ‘lapin a la cocotte,’ rabbit in burnt butter sauce. I’m going to celebrate by having that!”

The beloved star, whose career spans seven decades, insisted to the magazine that it’s his active mind that has kept him going — and moving.

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“If you wake up and have an idea in your head, you will last longer,” he shared. “One of the reasons I’m alive is because my head is still working. If my head is still working, my body has to follow suit!”

Actor Carl Reiner accepts the Heritage Award for the "Dick Van Dyke Show" during the 27th Annual Television Critics Association Awards on Aug. 6, 2011 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Actor Carl Reiner accepts the Heritage Award for the "Dick Van Dyke Show" during the 27th Annual Television Critics Association Awards on Aug. 6, 2011 in Beverly Hills, Calif. ((Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Reiner was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants and spent his childhood watching movies featuring his favorite comedians. Reiner said he was immediately hooked.

“My parents loved comedies so we saw Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, the Ritz Brothers and the Marx Brothers,” he told the publication. “I wanted to be one of them."

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Even when Reiner was drafted to the Air Force during World War II, his dream of making audiences laugh never left his mind. In fact, he served as a radio operator and toured as an actor, entertaining troops in Guam, Hawaii and Iwo Jima.

“Going through war and living is a very important process,” he told the publication. "You realize how vulnerable you are and how lucky you are to be in the right place at the right time. As a matter of fact, I have a history of luck."

Left to right: Bill Persky, Writing Achievement; Carl Reiner, Producer; Mary Tyler Moore, Continued Performance by an Actress; Dick Van Dyke, continued performance by an actor and Sam Denoff, Writing Achievement. — Getty

Left to right: Bill Persky, Writing Achievement; Carl Reiner, Producer; Mary Tyler Moore, Continued Performance by an Actress; Dick Van Dyke, continued performance by an actor and Sam Denoff, Writing Achievement. — Getty

Reiner famously created “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which won a whopping 15 Emmys and is still popular in worldwide syndication. The TV series, which starred the “Mary Poppins” actor, originally aired from 1961 until 1966.

“Nobody can do what Dick does,” said Reiner, who added he is still close with the star. “He can still dance and kick his legs in the air!”

Reiner was just as lucky in his personal life. He was married to actress Estelle Reiner for 65 years until she passed away at 94 in 2008.

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“My wife laid it out pretty clear,” he said. “Marry someone who can stand you at your worst.”

Writer Carl Reiner and actress Polly Bergen pose with their Emmy Awards statuettes on April 15, 1958, in New York City.

Writer Carl Reiner and actress Polly Bergen pose with their Emmy Awards statuettes on April 15, 1958, in New York City. (AP)

The couple had three children who have all gone on to pursue the arts, just like their parents.

“I didn’t force him to go into it,” said Reiner about his actor-director son Rob Reiner, 72. “But he loved what I was doing.”

And Reiner himself has kept busy. He’s since written several books about his legacy and reflections.

“If you write, write about what you do and who you are and you can’t be wrong,” he advised. “Don’t lie about anything. You are very similar to everybody else in the world. You love, you hate, you have friends, you have enemies. Be who you are.”

In honor of Reiner’s birthday, the National Comedy Center announced an initiative to digitally preserve his personal collection of production-used scrips from “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Episode #1 - The Sick Boy and the Sitter — Courtesy of the National Comedy Center

Episode #1 - The Sick Boy and the Sitter — Courtesy of the National Comedy Center

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The scripts, which are heavily annotated in Reiner’s own hand, were previously stored away and have not been seen since the series wrapped production in 1966. Scripts for all 158 episodes, totaling more than 7,500 pages, feature detailed edits and additions made during writing, read-through and rehearsals.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than having an idea and seeing it through to find out that, not only did you like it, but the audience and critics all seemed to agree,” Reiner told Fox News in a statement. “When asked, ‘Of all the theatrical projects you’ve done in your life, what are you most proud of?’ I always say, hands down, it’s creating and producing ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show.’ It was a labor of love.”

“I applaud The National Comedy Center for keeping the creative fires burning by singling out and preserving something most people feel deserves preservation,” added Reiner.