A television pioneer who was one of the medium’s first stars and is widely thought of as one of the kings of comedy has died. People magazine reports that Sid Caesar, whose "Your Show of Shows" helped establish TV as a viable source of entertainment, died today at 91.
"With a deceptively simple philosophy of humor — ‘I don’t take myself too seriously, he told PEOPLE in 1989. ‘I just laugh at myself a lot and call myself a dummy’ — Isaac Sidney Caesar had been eliciting laughs since the Great Depression, when he mimicked the accents of customers who came into his Russian-Jewish parents’ luncheonette in his native Yonkers, N.Y.," the story reports.
"Trained as a teenage saxophonist in the Catskill Mountains’ ‘Borscht Belt’ (so named because the beet soup was a favorite among immigrant and first-generation American resort patrons), Caesar also honed his comic craft as a Catskills tummler, a sort of on-premises master emcee who kept the hard-to-please guests entertained throughout the day."
But it was on television where Caesar made his greatest impact.
"To say Caesar caused a sensation on TV is to understate the case," People reports. "For eight years, beginning in 1950, he delighted America each week with a crazy salad of skits, pantomime and gentle satire. ‘Your Show of Shows,’ which Caesar helped script, produced such stellar comedy writers as Larry Gelbart, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and Neil Simon and also made a star out of his madcap sidekick, the incomparable Imogene Coca."
Here’s a sample of Sid Caesar in action — a health food restaurant skit in which he co-stars with Imogene Coca, which also features Carl Reiner: