The brilliant comedy writer Larry Gelbart has died at the age of 81. He's probably best known for his work on the first four years of the TV show MASH, for co-writing Tootsie, and for co-writing the book for the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Among many other credits, he was part of Sid Caesar's legendary group of writers. He wrote a memoir, Laughing Matters, published in 1997. I admire his work a great deal, and just marvel at his sheer output, inventiveness, wit and human touch.
The Los Angeles Times has a good obituary, imdb lists his extensive credits, and skippy and Ken Levine have nice remembrances of him. In addition to being tremendously talented and prodigious, he was apparently a very kind guy.
My favorite bit from the LA Times obit is an excerpt from his memoir talking about his preparation for MASH:
[It] was going to have to be a whole lot more than funny. Funny was easy. How not to trivialize human suffering by trying to be comic about it, that was the challenge.
Gelbart made funny look easy, and also that blending of comedy, tragedy and humanity. It's difficult to pull off. He's been tremendously influential, and I have no doubt that new generations of comedy writers will continue to study his work. Condolences to his family and friends, and thanks to Larry Gelbart for a wonderful legacy.