Legendary funnyman Sid Caesar, whose wild-eyed, rubbery, and improvisational characterizations made him one of the pioneers of the early Golden Age of Television during the 1950s with the program Your Show of Shows, has died at the age of 91. His death was revealed via a Twitter post by talk show maven Larry King.
Caesar represented one of the very first funny men of television. His Your Show of Shows, along with sidekick and equally funny and manic Imogene Coca, and with sketches written by people who would become absolute luminaries in television, Broadway, and films, like Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and others, was a smash hit during the early 1950s. It also won scores of Emmy awards, was performed live each week, and most importantly, was an early proponent of the sketch comedy that programs like Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and especially Saturday Night Live would later flower and crystallize. Caesar’s zany, off-the-cuff, off-the-radar, maniacal energy, which borderlined on lunatic, seemed to take every ounce of his inner grit to bring to fruition. In a way, other than maybe arguably Jerry Lewis, no other performer sweated to make his comedy 100 percent successful more than Sid Caesar did.
While his appearances in the public eye and entertainment field were limited by the time Your Show of Shows died down in the mid 1950s, the New York-born Caesar remained somewhat in people’s consciousness. He is probably best remembered to later generations as Coach Calhoun in the film adaptation of the hit 1950s retread musical Grease. His kind, warm, and conscientious character had some memorable exchanges with John Travolta’s character of Danny Zuko in the film, particularly during a wrestling exercise in the school gymnasium.
The sketch comedy improv show Whose Line is it Anyway (the American version) boasted a few appearances by Caesar, appearances which would stand as his last. In the group of people which included Wayne Brady and Ryan Stiles at the time, Caesar more than held his own, and was regarded as an elder statesman and true undisputed monarch of comedy. Only Jonathan Winters could even come close, and sometimes even arguably surpass, the endless comedic well of Caesar’s talents. The two men had appeared in the classic find-the-money comedy caper It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and shared many hilarious scenes together. It’s moments like those that keep the rich comedy skills of Sid Caesar alive and well, never nearing the ether of obscurity and if anything, quite the contrary.
RIP to one of comedy’s greatest streams of pinpointed light. Sid Caesar’s precision perfect comedy was a light that cut like a laser beam, like a razor-sharp blade into the funny bone of America, and hit the mark each and every time.
September 8, 1922 – February 12, 2014