His many honors included the Mark Twain award for American Humor, in 2006. Late in his career, having achieved everything he ever wanted, Simon said he continued to write because that's what he loved to do.
Neil Simon, considered by many the greatest American playwright over the last half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 91.
He died at a New York hospital from complications related to pneumonia, according to Bill Evans, a longtime friend.
A prolific writer who managed to bring a combination of humor, drama and introspection to his works, Simon became a household name in the United States.
From 1960 until the mid-1990s a new Simon play appeared on Broadway almost every year. He wrote more than 40 plays and at one point (1967) had four shows running concurrently on Broadway.
Two of his most famous plays were "The Odd Couple" and "Plaza Suite."
"The Odd Couple," a tale of two middle-aged, divorced, men who wind up sharing an apartment left American audiences laughing on Broadway, in movie theaters and, eventually, people's own living rooms in the form of a television sitcom.
The show premiered on Broadway in 1965, was remade into a movie in 1968 and then into a TV show that ran for five years in the 1970s.
One character — Oscar Madison — was a foul-mouthed slob who dropped his clothes and other belongings on the floor when he was done with them, while his age-old friend — Felix Ungar —sought to pick up every fleck of dust, seemingly before it hit a countertop.
Make 'em laugh
Other plays that were also made into movies include "Barefoot in the Park," "Brighton Beach Memoirs," "Biloxi Blues" and "Broadway Bound."
Simon won three regular Tony Awards — Broadway's highest honor — for "The Odd Couple" (1965), "Biloxi Blues" (1985), and "Lost in Yonkers" (1991) as well as a special achievement Tony in 1975. He also won a Pulitzer Prize for "Yonkers."
He also gained the rare distinction of having a New York stage, the Neil Simon Theater, named in his honor.
Simon was born on July 4, 1927 in New York City. He was married five times, twice to the same woman. He is survived by his wife of 19 years, Elaine Joyce, two daughters, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Simon once told Life magazine that his overarching goal as a playwright was to be entertaining.
"When I was a kid, I climbed up on a stone ledge to watch an outdoor movie of Charlie Chaplin," Simon said. "I laughed so hard I fell off, cut my head open and was taken to the doctor, bleeding and laughing.
"... My idea of the ultimate achievement in a comedy is to make a whole audience fall onto the floor, writhing and laughing so hard that some of them pass out."
bik/ng (AP, Reuters AFP, dpa)