Neil Simon

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Simon, Neil

(Marvin Neil Simon), 1927–, American playwright, b. New York City. His plays, nearly all of them popular with audiences, if not always with critics, are comedies treating recognizable aspects of modern middle-class life. Simon spent his early years in television, pioneering the situation comedy and writing jokes for some of the medium's most successful comedians. His string of Broadway plays began with Come Blow Your Horn (1961). Particularly adept at portraying the middle-aged, Simon is a master jokesmith who builds up his characters through funny lines rather than plot, although he does often attempt serious themes. The Gingerbread Lady (1970), for example, deals honestly with alcoholism, and his Pulitzer Prize–winning Lost in Yonkers (1991) treats the anguish of parental rejection. His other plays, many of which are semiautobiographical, include Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1971), The Sunshine Boys (1972), The Good Doctor (1973), God's Favorite (1974), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Biloxi Blues (1984), Broadway Bound (1986), Laughter on the 23d Floor (1993), and 45 Seconds from Broadway (2001). Many of his plays have been adapted into films, and Simon has written more than 20 screenplays.


See his memoirs, Rewrites (1996) and The Play Goes On (1999); biography by R. Johnson (1985); studies by E. M. McGovern (2d ed. 1979), R. K. Johnson (1983), G. Konas, ed. (1997), H. Bloom, ed. (2002), and S. Koprince (2002).

Simon, (Marvin) Neil

(1927–  ) playwright; born in New York City. After fulfilling his obligation to the Air Force Reserve in 1946, he took a clerical job with Warner Brothers in New York, but soon began writing comic material for radio and television personalities (1947–60). With his brother Danny Simon he wrote sketches for Broadway shows such as Catch a Star (1955) and New Faces of 1956. His first full-length comedy, Come Blow Your Horn (1961), was a success but it was The Odd Couple (1965) that launched his career as late-20th-century America's most successful writer of comedies. Year in and year out he filled theaters—and eventually the television screen and moviehouses—with his string of popular comedies and musicals (Sweet Charity, 1966; Promises, Promises, 1969); in 1966 he had four hit shows on Broadway. At the same time, he became increasingly dissatisfied at hearing himself dismissed as a gag-writer, and starting with The Gingerbread Lady (1970), he began to deal with more serious themes; with Chapter Two (1977), he became autobiographical; and with Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983) he began a series of dramas drawing on his youthful years; he was finally given serious recognition with the Pulitzer for Lost in Yonkers (1991).