Comedy Legend Sid Caesar Dies
February 12, 2014
Emmy-winning comedy legend Sid Caesar, best known for his weekly live TV broadcast Your Show of Shows in the '50s and such films as Grease and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, has died. He was 91.
Born September 8, 1922 in Yonkers, NY, Caesar pioneered sketch comedy with partner Imogene Coca on the 90-minute Your Show of Shows (with the help of comedy writers that eventually made names for themselves, including Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Woody Allen), later renamed Caesar's Hour, and then with his own special, The Sid Caesar Show. The next 20 years of his career were unfortunately marred by alcoholism and pills, a "20-year blackout" detailed in his 1982 autobiography Where Have I Been.
A sax player who attended Juilliard for a time and pursued a musical career, playing with several orchestras, Caesar wrote and performed sketches while serving with the U.S. Coast Guard before WWII. Caesar's antics caught the eye of Columbia Pictures producer Max Liebman, who put Caesar on the big screen in The Guilt of Janet Ames, and later on television in Admiral Broadway Revue, where the funnyman met his match in Imogene Coca, before the talented trio took on NBC's Your Show of Shows in 1950. That platform earned Caesar Emmy noms practically every year from 1951 to 1958, and he took home two statuettes.
In subsequent years, Caesar starred on Broadway in such titles as Little Me and Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers, made club appearances, hosted Saturday Night Live, and appeared in films ranging from buddy Mel Brooks' Silent Movie and History of the World: Part I to Vegas Vacation and TV's Love Boat and Mad About You. In 1985 he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
In 1943, Caesar married Florence Levy and they had two daughters and a son -- Michele, Karen and Rick -- who all survive him.