Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Obituary: Sid Caesar

Famous early television comedian Sid Caesar, 91, best remembered for the comedy/variety show of the early 1950s, Your Show of Shows, died today.

Your Show of Shows (1950-1954) is considered a landmark television series, despite the fact not a huge amount of the show exists today thanks to it having been broadcast live; however, there is enough kinescope footage out there for future generations to appreciate Caesar and company's work.

One of his co-stars on the series was Carl Reiner, still with us, who is best remembered for his work on the Dick Van Dyke show. Among the writers of the comedy skits in this show, Caesar's successor Caesar's Hour, and various comedy specials were Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen. I know: All paths lead to back to Allen, but he was involved in that series long before anybody had ever heard of him, his comedy act, his films, or his scandals.

And yes, "Sid Caesar" was his real name, the youngest of three born to Jewish immigrants. He was born in 1922. "Sid" was simply short for "Sidney."

More from the link:

Sketches on “Your Show of Shows” and its successor, “Caesar’s Hour” (1954-57), were as likely to skewer the minutiae of domestic life as to lampoon classic Hollywood movies, arty foreign films and even operas.

Mr. Caesar was funny whether working from a script or improvising: In a classic moment during a parody of the opera “Pagliacci,” as he was drawing tears on his face in front of a dressing-room mirror, the makeup pencil broke. Suddenly unable to draw anything but straight lines, he made the split-second decision to play tick-tack-toe on his cheek.

With a rubbery face and the body of a linebacker, Mr. Caesar could get laughs without saying a word, as he did in a pantomime routine in which he and his co-stars, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris and Mr. Reiner, played mechanical figures on a town clock that goes dangerously out of whack.

He was also deft at handling whatever wordplay his writers gave him. In one guise, as the extremely far-out jazz saxophonist Progress Hornsby, he explained that his new record was in a special kind of hi-fi: “This is the highest they’ve ever fied. If they fi any higher than this, they’re gonna foo!”

One of the series' best known sketches:

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