American TV's great comedian of the 1950s
Sid Ceasar's Finest Sketch
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Wednesday 12 February 2014 | Early on in their careers, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, and Mel Brooks all produced gags for the American comedian Sid Caesar, who has died aged 91. "Writing for Caesar was the highest thing you could aspire to," said Allen, adding: "at least as a TV comedy writer. The presidency was above that." Simon later based the play Laughter on the 23rd Floor on his experiences of working for Caesar's popular variety programme Your Show of Shows (1950-54), and Reiner's time with Caesar inspired him to create The Dick Van Dyke Show.
At the height of his fame in the 1950s, Caesar was making more than $1m a year and Your Show of Shows was drawing audiences of up to 25 million. Broadway theatre owners complained that as a result of his popularity, they always had empty seats on Saturday nights – the time that Your Show of Shows and its more highly regarded successor, Caesar's Hour (1954-57), were broadcast live to the nation. Caesar's fans included Albert Einstein – who died before their planned meeting – and Alfred Hitchcock, who remarked that "the young Mr Caesar best approaches the great Chaplin of the early 1920s"
February 14, 2014 | The gaunt old man wearing pajamas in his bed bore little resemblance to the young and swarthy man on the screen. When Sid Caesar watched himself on “Your Show of Shows” with me that afternoon, he gazed across a span of fifty-five years. By then, he could barely speak. But, when he saw something funny, he could laugh, and did. Even off a fuzzy kinescope, Sid Caesar was still very, very funny.