Saying goodbye to Neil Simon

Re-inventor of comedy and prolific member of the arts dies at 91

At age 91, beloved American playwright Neil Simon passed Sunday.

On paper, Simon was a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer with an unprecedented 4 Oscar nominations and 17 Tony nominations. In the hearts of those among the theatre community, however, he will be remembered as an icon who pushed the bounds of comedy and reinvented a large part of the theatre world for years to come.

Though Simon wrote a few television classics, he was known most publicly for his stage works such as The Odd Couple, and Sweet Charity. In his time, Simon completed 71 pieces for the stage and screen, 32 of them being stageplays.  

Aside from his writing accomplishments, Simon’s true legacy was in his redefinition of comedic values in the theatre. In his plays, he made light of conflict within the family and put emphasis on the challenges of urban life and living. This shift in focus brought up topics that challenged the standing expectation of theatre but was widely accepted by audiences and performers alike.

Thursday evening, Simon was remembered at a memorial service held in the Frank E Campbell Funeral Chapel in the Upper East Side attended by friends and family. Following the service, attendees gathered to watch the Great White Way’s marquee dim for a minute, displaying titles of his greatest works such as “The Odd Couple”, and “Barefoot in the Park” in honor of the great playwright’s life and contributions.

Simon’s prolific writing career brought him numerous awards, nominations, and recognition. However, it was his passion for the theatre and his ability to capture the hearts and humor of an audience that will leave his name in lights.