Born in the Bronx, Simon had childhood ambitions to be a doctor, but after attending New York University and the University of Denver, he turned instead to television, writing comedy for Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, and others. His first play, Come Blow Your Horn (1958), about a young rebel who moves into the luxurious apartment of his older brother, is partly autobiographical. Since then, Simon has written numerous successful comedies. Most are about the middle class, the comedy deriving from situations of personal frustration. Although detractors have accused him of superficiality, today Simon is widely considered one of the world's most successful playwrights. His plays have been produced in community theaters throughout the country and have also been made into films. He is so well known that when he opens a new play on Broadway his name is often put in larger letters than the title of his work. A master at comedy, Simon gets laughs not just from clever gags and one-liners, but also by presenting deviations from the normal in character, situation, and thought. Although he seems to espouse conventional values, it is the dramatic deviation from these social norms that make his works so funny. Some of Simon's most commercially successful plays include Barefoot in the Park (1963), The Odd Couple (1965), Plaza Suite (1968), The Last of the Red-Hot Lovers (1969), The Sunshine Boys (1972), and California Suite (1976). But Simon has also been willing to experiment. The Good Doctor (1973) is based on humorous stories by Anton Chekhov (see Vol. 2). God's Favorite (1974) is adapted from the Biblical story of Job, and Fools (1981) is set in an idyllic Russian hamlet where the villagers suffer from chronic stupidity. In recent years, Simon's plays have become increasingly autobiographical, reflecting both his Jewish background and events from his later life. Chapter Two (1977) was written in agonized response to the death of his first wife, Joan, and his subsequent courtship of and marriage to actress Marsha Mason. Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), the first of an autobiographical trilogy, is set in Brooklyn in 1937 with the teenaged hero, aspiring writer Eugene, modeled on the young Neil Simon. Biloxi Blues (1985) shows Eugene learning about life and developing his writing skills while at boot camp during World War II. Broadway Bound (1986), the most successful of the trilogy, is vaguely reminiscent of a Tennessee Williams memory play: Eugene and his older brother attempt to break into the world of professional comedy writing while coping with their parents' impending divorce. The figure of the mother, Kate, is one of Simon's finest achievements. Over the years, Neil Simon's plays have matured artistically and philosophically, and he has begun to gain the admiration not just of his audiences, but also of theater artists, critics, and scholars. The themes about which he writes are important ones: sibling rivalry, the crises of puberty, and the frustrations of sexual awakening; the values of friendship, love, marriage, and family; midlife problems associated with infidelity, divorce, and death; and, finally, the importance of individual dignity. Neil Simon's reputation has been enhanced by numerous awards. He received an Emmy in 1957 and again in 1959 for his television work. He received the Tony in 1963, 1965, 1970, and 1985. He was given the Writer's Guild of America West Award for his screenplays in 1969, 1971, 1972, and 1976. In 1983 he received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. In 1983 and again in 1985 he received the Outer Circle Award.