It was Dick Van Dyke’s 91st birthday on Dec. 13th( also my wonderful nephew Will’s birthday too–so it must be a special day!) In honor of his 91st birthday, I present my little tribute to Mr. Van Dyke, aka Rob Petrie; Dick Van Dyke meets Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space; outtakes from my comic strip, Plastic Babyheads from Outer Space ( now Jetpack Jr., of course) at gocomics.
My wife and I have watched “The Dick Van Dyke Show” many times over on Netflix, and thousands of times in the 60’s and 70’s. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it never grows old. There’s something timeless in the story of Rob & Laura, Sally and Buddy. Growing up, I saw something of my parents in Rob & Laura. In truth, my folks were nothing like them– except in that Dick & Mary were so natural together, their arguments so real and so revealing of their love for one another. Rob & Laura were a dream couple; it was natural to want to see my parents in the young, attractive, upwardly mobile suburban couple. Rob & Laura Petrie set an impossible standard, and my parents were never a song-and-dance team. I loved them anyway.
Yet still, Rob and Laura touch a chord in me; their loves and losses and little misunderstandings; lost innocence-theirs and ours.
A variety of elements came together to make “The Dick Van Dyke Show” a classic of the first generation of television comedies; the writing, the direction, Carl Reiner–but most importantly; the cast–and the show’s effervescent leads. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore were perfectly cast, and among the greatest comic actors of their time(only Lucille Ball compares). Watching them at work in TDVDS is to see two stellar comics at the peak of their game, performing great comic writing brilliantly. As the lead of the show, the weight rests on Dick, and episode after episode, he comes through with a dancer’s grace in slapstick routines, and a clown’s command of pantomime and facial expression. He’s truly a wonder of great comic acting.
So I’m a big fan; even at his hokiest; performing some barbershop quartet routine from long, long ago; he is one of those entertainers who has that rare gift of making you glad to be alive. Once years ago, my mother and I walked behind him in a department store in Manhattan. We were so surprised to see him that day. Giving the lie to that cliche of TV stars who are smaller than they appear on television, Dick Van Dyke was so much bigger than I imagined he’d be. We wanted to say “hi” and thank him for all the laughs he’d given us over the years. But we were too shy. And then he was gone.
So here’s my tribute to you, Mr. Van Dyke. Thank you for all of the joy you’ve brought to us these many, many years. Happy Birthday!