One of the Stars Who Helped Popularize TV in Its Early Days Dies at 91

Feb 12, 2014  •  Post A Comment

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:

One Comment

  1. I had the pleasure of working with him for a week some years back. A very nice man who not only had wonderful stories, but also wanted to listen to those of others.
    We were working on the old Metro Media lot in Hollywood, had finished rehearsing for the day and were about to cross the driveway over to the office. Walking out of the building we both spotted a full grown tiger standing twenty feet in front of us. We froze. Assessing the situation as none threatening, I turned to him and said, “Now, that’s a pussy cat.” His eyes as wide as the moon, he said, “I know, and I’m taking the tunnel.” He returned inside. I approached the tiger slowly and as I got closer the trainer also came into view. I asked and was given permission to love up the amazing feline, which I did for about ten minutes. Sid and I had a many laughs about it as the week progressed.
    Peter Bright

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