For a child growing up in a Kansas farm town in the 1950s, Sid Caesar came as a revolution. Along with Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen, Caesar brought a brilliance to network television never quite seen since.
He gave us 90 minutes of scripted live comedy every week, written by a crew that included Mel Simon, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, and Larry Gelbart — each of whom developed into stars.
His humor was nothing short of surreal, and his curfew of actors were sumply brilliant.
Caesar gave a farm town kid a whole new take on the world, daring, outrageous, and profoundly subversive.
And now he’s gone.
First, the story from Reuters:
Comic showman Sid Caesar, a pioneer of American television sketch comedy as the star and creative force of “Your Show of Shows” during the 1950s, died on Wednesday at age 91, according to his friend and former collaborator Carl Reiner.
Reiner told Reuters he learned of Caesar’s death from a mutual friend, actor and writer Rudy De Luca, who had recently visited Caesar at his Los Angeles-area home. He said the veteran entertainer had been ill for at least a year.
One of the most ambitious and demanding of all TV enterprises, “Your Show of Shows” was 90 minutes of live, original sketch comedy airing every Saturday night, 39 weeks a year. It is widely considered the prototype for every U.S. TV sketch comedy series that followed, including “Saturday Night Live.”
Some clips for your consideration of live, prime time comedy at its best.
From Kovacs Corner:
Sid Caesar: “Big Business” with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris
He is perhaps not considered as “avant garde” as Ernie Kovacs, nonetheless Sid Caesar (along with co-stars Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, and Nanette Fabray) created two of the most popular and funny comedy shows during the 1950′s, “Your Show of Shows” and later “Caesar’s Hour”. It is ironic that Sid was chosen by director Stanley Kramer to replace Ernie as the character “Melville Crump” in the movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.
And one his most memorable skits, based on a huge prime time hit, This is Your Life.
From Kovacs Corner:
Sid Caesar: “This is Your Story” with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris (Full Sketch)
[From “Kovacs Corner” on YouTube.com] – Before video tape, when a live prime time television series went on mid year hiatus, the networks would broadcast “summer replacements”. During the year 1957, “The Ernie Kovacs Show” was the summer replacement program for “Caesar’s Hour”. Earlier known as “Your Show of Shows”, it starred the legendary TV comedian Sid Caesar, with co-stars Carl Reiner and the late Howard Morris. With a writing staff that included among others Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Danny Simon and Mel Tolkin, it was one of the premier comedy shows of it’s time. This particular sketch satirizes one of the most popular programs of it’s day “This is Your Life” which starred Ralph Edwards and it is, in my opinion, one of the funniest comedy sketches ever performed on television. Howard Morris’ over-the-top performance as “Uncle Goopy” put an audience in stitches 50 years ago and he can do it again with equal ease today! After Kovacs’ untimely death, Sid was called upon by director Stanley Kramer to replace Ernie in the role of “Melville Crump” in the1963 film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.
Finally, and from Isabel Karp:
Sid Caesar: Health Food Restaurant
Sid Caesar Performs Health Food Restaurant with Howard Morris, Imogene Coca, and Carl Reiner.
So farewell, Sid Caesar, the noblest comedian of them all. . .