Entertainment

Odd Couple playwright Neil Simon dies at 91

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Neil Simon, the American playwright best known for The Odd Couple and other comedic hits, has died at 91.

Broadway's long-reigning king of comedy died of complications from pneumonia early Sunday, his longtime friend and publicist Bill Evans said.

He was surrounded by his family at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan.

US website TMZ reported he had been on life support after suffering kidney failure, and also had Alzheimer's.

Simon was regarded as one American theatre's most successful and prolific playwrights in the second half of the 20th century – often chronicling middle class issues and fears.

Some of his most famous works include laugh-filled hits such as Barefoot In The Park, The Sunshine Boys and his Brighton Beach trilogy, which dominated Broadway for decades.

Simon struggled with his health over the years – receiving a kidney transplant from his publicist Mr Evans in 2004.

Image: Neil Simon (C) at the opening night of The Odd Couple with Matthew Broderick in 2005

Tributes have poured in following the news of Simon's death.

Bill Prady, The Big Bang Theory's executive producer, tweeted: "There is no American comedy writer whose work isn't influenced by the rhythm and music of Neil Simon's words. With gratitude, Doc."

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill shared a quote by Simon, adding: "Neil Simon #RIP GIANT of the American Theatre #ThanksForTheLaughs".

There is no American comedy writer whose work isnt influenced by the rhythm and music of Neil Simons words. With gratitude, Doc.

— Bill Prady (@billprady) August 26, 2018

“Theres no more money anyone can pay me that I need. There are no awards they can give me that I havent won. I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it”-Neil Simon #RIP GIANT of the American Theatre #ThanksForTheLaughs pic.twitter.com/NZIVGPLdst

— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) August 26, 2018

Actress Elaine Paige tweeted he was "truly the king of #Broadway comedy."

Actor Josh Malina added: R.I.P. Neil Simon. Grew up going to his plays in NYC. Always hoped I'd work for him at some point."

R.I.P. Neil Simon. Grew up going to his plays in NYC. Always hoped Id work for him at some point.

— (((New York actor))) (@JoshMalina) August 26, 2018

Simon's first big hit was Come Blow Your Horn in 1961 and wrote more than 30 plays.

For seven months in 1967, he had four productions running at the same time on Broadway.

But it was The Odd Couple – a comedy about two bickering roommates – that catapulted Simon to national stardom following its premiere on Broadway in 1965.

It was later revived in a successful 1968 film and 1970s television series, as well as several other derivative works and spin-offs.

His writing was famed for its meticulous jokes, comic one-liners and humorous situations, and usually focused on middle-class, urban life, with many of the plots drawn from his own experiences.

Neil Simon with his wife Elaine Joyce in 2014, who he is survived by
Image: Neil Simon with his wife Elaine Joyce in 2014, who he is survived by

Simon won numerous awards during his career, including four Tony Awards and four Writers Guild of America Awards.

Reflecting on his success during a 1997 interview with The Washington Post, he said: "I know that I have reached the pinnacle of rewards.

"There's no more money anyone can pay me that I need.

"There are no awards they can give me that I haven't won. I have no reason to write another play except that I am alive and I like to do it".

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He married five times and is survived by his American actress wife Elaine Joyce, 74, and three daughters from previous marriages, Nancy, Ellen and Bryn.

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