Actors and Writers on Neil Simon: ‘When He Laughed, You Knew You’d Hit His Truth’

Neil Simon, the playwright behind hits like “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple,” died on Sunday. Mr. Simon wrote for television and movies, but his work on Broadway came to define his legacy. He was remarkably prolific, racking up over 9,000 performances of his work between 1965 to 1980.

After his death, writers, actors and others spoke to The New York Times and took to social media to remember his life and influence.



“I owe him a career.” — Matthew Broderick, whose first role on Broadway was as Mr. Simon’s alter ego, Eugene Jerome, in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1983)


“You wanted Neil Simon in the room while you were rehearsing his plays, because when he laughed you knew you’d hit his truth!!! He was extremely generous to me in his writing and in his care of the process of bringing that writing off the page. He was the one and only, and I am grateful beyond words for what he gave me … for what he gave us all.” — Linda Lavin, a Tony Award winner for “Broadway Bound” (1986)

“Before I met him, Neil Simon taught me how to tie a tie without looking. I was forced to learn in ‘The Odd Couple’ in high school. Years later, when I first met him I told him he had made a big impact on me when I was a kid. He responded with, ‘When, last week?’ ” — Santino Fontana, starred in 2009 Broadway revival of “Brighton Beach Memoirs”


“Neil Simon will always be one of my theatrical heroes and I am so proud to have played a small part in his unparalleled career and remarkable legacy.”— Nathan Lane, starred with Matthew Broderick in the 2005 Broadway revival of “The Odd Couple”

“When someone commends me on having been a funny kid, I always say ‘That was the writer.’ No one ever looks funnier than when Neil Simon’s words are coming out of their mouths. A kind, brilliant man has left us today.”— Quinn Cummings, starred in “The Goodbye Girl” film (1977) at the age of


“I was in college when I got my first Broadway show — Neil Simons ‘Plaza Suite.’ There couldn’t have been a better way to begin a career. Doc Simon was the Albert Einstein of funny.” — Bob Balaban

“Neil Simon, you wrote every character for me, you just didn’t know it at the time. Thank you. Rest in Hilarity.” — Jackie Hoffman


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Mayim Bialik✔@missmayim

The most famous playwright in American history has died. From humble beginnings in the Bronx, Neil Simon defined a generation of comedy and reflection on what it means to be human. He was an extraordinary writer and force in the world of theater. Thank you, Neil.“Neil Simon’s ability to chronicle the humor of everyday relationships makes doing his play eight times a week in San Diego in 2018 feel as fresh and relatable as it did in New York in the early ‘60s. There’s a tendency to consign these plays to the dusty past, but you’d be wrong to do so. It’s Neil’s words that bring us vividly to life night after night. And they consistently bring audiences laughter, tears, and tears of laughter.” — Kerry Bishé and Chris Lowell, now starring in “Barefoot in the Park” at the Old Globe through Sept. 16.


“There was no sweeter sound a young actor could hear than the laughter of Neil Simon during your audition.” — Josh Radnor

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