19 Delightful Quotes from Dick Van Dyke

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Dick Van Dyke has been charming his way onto TV and movie screens since the 1950s, capturing hearts (as well as awards—he has five Emmys, a Tony, and a Grammy) in roles like comedy writer Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and street artist Bert in Mary Poppins. (Not to mention starring roles in Bye Bye Birdie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Night at the Museum movies or his long-running television series Diagnosis: Murder.) In honor of his birthday—Van Dyke was born on December 13, 1925—here are 19 quotes from the perennially cheerful actor who's still singing and dancing far better than the rest of us ever could.

1. On the importance of optimism

“It's more in my nature to be optimistic, I think. I'm one of those people who gets up on the right side of the bed in the morning. I get up and have a cup of coffee and go to the gym before I talk myself out of it because I will as anybody will.”

—From a 2015 interview with NPR

2. On why The Dick Van Dyke SHow was so successful


“Primarily Carl Reiner, who was just a genius, a comedy genius. He wrote—he didn't care how silly people got, as long as it was believable, as long as there was a reason. And they acted like human beings. And he could write. He heard our speech patterns, and could write to it. Nobody ever had to change the line. He had Mary [Tyler Moore, who played his wife] talking like Mary and me talking like myself—everybody. He was that good.”

—From a 2000 interview with Larry King

3. On his famous stumbles

"Of course, there's the tripping over the ottoman in the opening of the show. But I didn't realize how many different kinds of falls I did in that show. At this banquet recently, they showed a little clip of all my falls. I said, 'No wonder there's arthritis in my spine.'"

—From a 2007 feature in Esquire

4. On ageism

“Ageism is probably the last discrimination that’s accepted in this culture. I don’t understand it. So many people are more afraid of old age than they are of dying, I think.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

5. On being an Average Joe

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"...A gentleman came up [to me] and said he had been surprised by the way I acted. I asked what he meant. He said I didn't act like a star, or anything, I seemed like just a normal, middle-class guy … This may sound funny, but, you know, I guess I am."

—From a 1967 interview with Roger Ebert

6. On death, religion and comedy

“The day that Stan Laurel died, the press came by my house to interview me about him. As I'm talking, a sprinkler spout that I was standing over burst. Water shot up and just drenched me. I looked up to the sky. It was obviously his last bit of comedy. If that won't give you religion, what will?”

—From a 2007 feature in Esquire

7. On napping

“I take a nap every afternoon just like a child, and I highly recommend this refreshing break in the day to you and everyone else. Most of South America and Europe do the same thing. Try it.”

—From his 2015 memoir Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging

8. On choosing roles

Dick Van Dyke on the set of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).
Dick Van Dyke on the set of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). / Getty Images

“I decided, when I started having kids, that I’d try not to do anything that I wouldn’t be proud for them to see. I’ve kind of stuck with that, and I don’t regret that at all, although I’ve lost money and passed up a lot of projects because of it. But I feel good about that.”

—From a 2011 interview with The A.V. Club

9. On his struggle with alcoholism

“I went to all the rehab and all that kind of thing … I just said, 'I got to get rid of it. Please take it away.' Slowly it started to make me a little sick, a little dizzy. All of a sudden, I didn't want it anymore, which is wonderful.”

—From a 2015 interview with Entertainment Tonight

10. On his definition of real love

“Real love, as I have come to know it, is when you care about the other person as much as you care about yourself. You can't make another person happy, but you can pave the way for them to make themselves happy.”

—From his 2015 memoir Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging

11. On how to stay young

“My first caution to everyone is: Do not start going down steps sideways. It feels good for the knees but the spine starts getting thrown off, and before you know it, you're on a walker. Go down the stairs front ways, and it'll be uncomfortable, your knees will hurt, but by God you'll save your life.”

—From a 2015 interview with Senior Living Guide

12. On plastic surgery

“All that nipping and tucking doesn't make you look younger—only stranger. My advice? Let the outside sag and wrinkle; change what's on the inside.”

—From his 2015 memoir Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging

13. On insecurity

“I've made peace with insecurity. You have to. Because there is no certainty of any kind. Once you let go, it's really freeing.”

—From a 2007 feature in Esquire

14. On playing Bert in Mary Poppins

"That's the best thing I ever did. It was hard, hard work, but I loved doing it."

—From a 2011 interview with USA Today

15. On the power of a positive attitude

“So much of life is about attitude—or, more accurately, having a good attitude. In terms of the death of friends and loved ones, attitude takes a backseat to being practical, to opening your heart and being practical about the fact that everyone lives and dies, and although we don't get to choose the way we die, we do have a big say in the way we live.”

—From his 2015 memoir Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging

16. On growing up during the Depression

"I remember my parents having some heated arguments about unpaid bills, and which bills to pay. They went in and out of debt and periodically got a second mortgage on the furniture. I wasn’t aware of any hardship and never felt the stigma of having to watch every nickel. Everybody was poor. Actually, we had it better than most."

—From his 2011 memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

17. On childhood

"I was a solid student. I was strong in English and Latin, but I got lost anytime the subject included math. I wish I had paid more attention to biology and science in general, subjects that came to interest me as an adult. I could have gotten better marks, but I never took a book home, never did homework. Come to think of it, neither of my parents ever looked at any of my report cards. They thought I was a good kid—and looking back, I guess I was."

—From his 2011 memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

18. On the evolution of comedy

“I think comedy’s morphed pretty well over the years … I think it’s changed, not necessarily for the better, because primarily … We used to get 27, 28 minutes to do a story in, and now they’re lucky if they get 18 or 20 minutes. So I don’t think they can really do a beginning, a middle, and an end anymore. There’s an awful lot of one-line jokes; almost every line is a punchline. It’s not the same, but there’s still good comedy around.”

—From a 2011 interview with The A.V. Club

19. On his notoriously "bad" Cockney accent in Mary Poppins

"British people have never left me off the hook … They just tease me to death."

—From a 2010 interview with the Los Angeles Times