By The Prophet of Life
He was the most popular comedian on television for four years running. His TV show broke new ground and his writing staff were the people who shaped comedy in the worlds of film, television and on Broadway. He introduced America to a new style of comedy that blossomed into shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, All In The Family, Mash, The Carol Burnet Show and Saturday Night Live. Yet most of his life was spent battling the demons of self-doubt and addiction.
Born the son of immigrants who opened a luncheonette, Sid Caesar learned the art of mimicking accents by listening to the luncheonette’s multi-national customers speaking their native tongues. An art that would serve him well in later years. Caesar got his start in show business from an unusual place, The U.S. Coast Guard. While enlisted, he wrote for and became part of a revue that toured throughout America. The Revue’s Director like Caesar’s talent and used him in a Broadway play he directed and brought him to television in 1948. That Director, Max Liebman, produced a program called “Your Show of Shows” which became a hit. The show was a mix of scripted and improvised comedy sketches, a Caesar monologue, a Guest Host and musical; guests. Sounds a lot like the format of Saturday Night Live but it was on TV in 1950. Caesar had a team of budding comedy writers who have become a Who’s Who of comedy: Mel Brooks, Neal Simon, Larry Gelbart (MASH), Mel Tolkin (All In The Family), and later, Woody Allen.
Caesar’s career had peaked by 1957 and his demons took over during much of the 1960’s and 70’s. He still appeared in movies and on T.V. but most of the time was spent battling addictions and fears. Mel Brook’s Film “My Favorite Year” was based on Caesar during Your Show Shows. In the 1980’s he seemed to be winning over his demons and he embraced healthy living, eating right and even working out. Sid Cesar died today at his home in Beverly Hills California. He was 91.
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