Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts

Sid Caesar, comic genius of 1950s television, dies at 91
First Published Feb 12 2014 04:08 pm • Last Updated Feb 12 2014 05:03 pm

Los Angeles • Sid Caesar, the TV comedy pioneer whose rubber-faced expressions and mimicry built on the work of his dazzling team of writers that included Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, died Wednesday. He was 91.

Family spokesman Eddy Friedfeld said Caesar, who also played Coach Calhoun in the 1978 movie "Grease," died at his home in the Los Angeles area after a brief illness.

At a glance

Stars react to death of comedy legend Sid Caesar

Celebrities react to the passing of TV comedy pioneer Sid Caesar Wednesday at 91 at his home in Los Angeles:

“Sid Caesar set the template for everybody. He was without a doubt, inarguably, the greatest sketch comedian-monologist that television ever produced. He could ad-lib, he could do anything that was necessary to make an audience laugh.” — Caesar’s longtime collaborator and friend Carl Reiner on CBS Radio.

“Saddened by the death of Sid Caeser. He was one of the greats. When you watch him today, he still makes you laugh like he did 60 years ago.” — Joan Rivers on Twitter, adding, “A childhood highlight was going to the taping of “Your Show of Shows.” I’m just sorry I never had the opportunity to work with Sid Caesar.”

“He was one of the truly great comedians of my time and one of the finest privileges I’ve had in my entire career was that I was able to work for him.” — Woody Allen in a statement.

“Life...doing her thing, another great has passed Sid Caesar. Funny man We honored him at the very first Comic Relief. RIP turn turn turn” — Whoopi Goldberg on Twitter.

“We’ve lost one of the greats. Sid Caesar was a fantastic comedian and entertainer. His quadlingual schtick was always a hit. We’ll miss him.” — Arnold ?Schwarzenegger on Twitter.

“He was a genius at everything.” — Larry King on CBS radio.

“Just read Sid Caesar passed away. Real genius of sketch comedy. Without him, no SNL & no me. HAIL TO THE KING! (hash) SID CAESAR, KING of COMEDY” — Comedian and former “Saturday Night Live” star Jon Lovitz on Twitter.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"He had not been well for a while. He was getting weak," said Friedfeld, who lives in New York and last spoke to Caesar about 10 days ago.

Friedfeld, a friend of Caesar’s who wrote the 2003 biography "Caesar’s Hour," learned of his death in an early morning call from Caesar’s daughter, Karen.

In his two most important shows, "Your Show of Shows," 1950-54, and "Caesar’s Hour," 1954-57, Caesar displayed remarkable skill in pantomime, satire, mimicry, dialect and sketch comedy. And he gathered a stable of young writers who went on to worldwide fame in their own right — including Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart ("M-A-S-H’), and Allen.

"He was one of the truly great comedians of my time and one of the finest privileges I’ve had in my entire career was that I was able to work for him," Allen said in a statement.

Reiner, who was a writer-performer on the breakthrough "Your Show of Shows" sketch program, said he had an ability to "connect with an audience and make them roar with laughter."

"Sid Caesar set the template for everybody," Reiner told KNX-AM in Los Angeles. "He was without a doubt, inarguably, the greatest sketch comedian-monologist that television ever produced. He could adlib. He could do anything that was necessary to make an audience laugh."

The Friars Club called Caesar the "patron saint" of sketch comedy.

"The one great star that television created and who created television was Sid Caesar," said now-deceased critic Joel Siegel on the TV documentary "Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age Of Comedy," which first aired in 2001.


story continues below
story continues below

Friedfeld said Caesar always shared the acclaim.

"Sid was an innovator, he and his team. He was very careful about never taking credit alone. He believed in his co-stars and his writers," he said. "They created the amazing vehicles for him to be creative."

While best known for his TV shows, which have been revived on DVD in recent years, he also had success on Broadway and occasional film appearances, notably in "It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

If the typical funnyman was tubby or short and scrawny, Caesar was tall and powerful, with a clown’s loose limbs and rubbery face, and a trademark mole on his left cheek.

But Caesar never went in for clowning or jokes. He wasn’t interested. He insisted that the laughs come from the everyday.

"Real life is the true comedy," he said in a 2001 interview with The Associated Press. "Then everybody knows what you’re talking about." Caesar brought observational comedy to TV before the term, or such latter-day practitioners as Jerry Seinfeld, were even born.

In one celebrated routine, Caesar impersonated a gumball machine; in another, a baby; in another, a ludicrously overemotional guest on a parody of "This Is Your Life."

He played an unsuspecting moviegoer getting caught between feuding lovers in a theater. He dined at a health food restaurant, where the first course was the bouquet in the vase on the table. He was interviewed as an avant-garde jazz musician who seemed happily high on something.

The son of Jewish immigrants, Caesar was a wizard at spouting melting-pot gibberish that parodied German, Russian, French and other languages. His Professor was the epitome of goofy Germanic scholarship.

Some compared him to Charlie Chaplin for his success at combining humor with touches of pathos.

"As wild an idea as you get, it won’t go over unless it has a believable basis to start off with," he told The Associated Press in 1955. "The viewers have to see you basically as a person first, and after that you can go on into left field."

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.