Sid Caesar, Pioneer of American Comedy, Dead at 91

Sid Caesar, Pioneer of American Comedy, Dead at 91

The actor and writer was best known TV series “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar's Hour”

Sid Caesar, the writer, actor and all-around showman who profoundly influenced American comedy from the early days of television and beyond, has died. He was 91.

A representative for Carl Reiner, one of Caesar's longtime collaborators, confirmed his death to TheWrap. Talk-show host Larry King broke the news of Caesar's death on his Twitter account:

Born Isaac Sidney Caesar, the actor was best known TV series “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar's Hour,” and memorably played Coach Calhoun in the movie “Grease.”

Caesar left home after high school in Yonkers to pursue a music career in the 1930s, and found work here and there playing his saxophone – a skill he'd keep sharp for life. His first taste of comedy came at a hotel in the Catskills, where he played in the dance band and participated in comedy routines.

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JUN 14 1971, JUN 15 1971, NOV 28 1982; Sid Caesar to Open 80th Season at Elitch Theatre; Star remini

A stint in the Coast Guard led him to tour nationally with a service revue, and he moved to Hollywood after the war, reprising his role in a film version of the show for Columbia Pictures. His TV career kicked off with an appearance on Milton Berle's “Texaco Star Theater,” and his first series, “The Admiral Broadway Revue” was an instant hit on NBC – but only lasted 26 episodes.

In 1950, he appeared in the first episode of “Your Show of Shows,” a 90-minute variety program that aired Saturday nights. The show first brought together the seminal comedy team of Caesar, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris and Imogene Coca – as well as breaking the writing careers of future comedy luminaries such as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Lucille Kallen.

Caesar won his first Emmy for the show in 1952, but it ended two years later. That worked out fine for Caesar: He returned to TV with the one-hour live broadcast “Caesar's Hour” just a few months later – his first taste of total creative control — bringing along much of his “Your Show of Shows” crew, who famously lampooned pop culture of the time, including movies, theater and other television shows.

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Caesar continued to write and appear regularly in film and television through the decades, including alongside Edie Adams as the husband-and-wife team in “It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”; in Mel Brooks‘ “History of the World, Part I”; and as Coach Calhoun in “Grease” and “Grease 2.”

He wrote two autobiographies – “Where Have I Been” and “Caesar's Hours,” which touched on his struggles with alcoholism and barbiturates. He was made an honorary “Saturday Night Live” castmember – the only person to ever receive that honor – during his hosting stint in 1983, and stayed active in the business well into his later years.

See Sid Caesar in the sketch “Big Business” with longtime collaborators Carl Reiner and Howard Morris in the video below:

  • gabbycorner

    Sad to say, I thought he was already dead!

    • Jim

      You were thinking of Julius Caesar.

  • Jim

    The man who was funny, a good sax player, strong man, hung Mel Brooks outside his hotel room upside down, and showed a taxi driver how a baby was born from the cabbie's shirt collar (imagine it).

    Rest in peace….and take a bow.

    If you ever watch “My Favorite Year” starring Peter O'Toole, Caesar was King Kyser (played by Joseph Bologna) and Brooks was Benjy Stone (played by Mark Linn-Baker). O'Toole was Errol Flynn aka Alan Swan played by O'Toole.

  • Stuart W

    Sid Ceasar (Professor Ludvig Von Tourist, Progress Hornsby etc. You named ‘em, Sid Ceasar played them with dialects) Sid and his marvelous cast kept our nation laughing. RIP

  • Jim

    Caesar owns the rights to the show catalog of “Your Show of Shows.”

  • Jim

    “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

    Carl Reiner (produced and created the Van Dyke show) worked with Sid on “Shows” and Caeser's Corner. Sid was the inspirtation for the Alan Brady character. Though Sid had real hair on his head. “Needy bald people….”

    • hupto

      Reiner has said that Alan Brady was really based more on Berle and Gleason; Caesar was tough, but not as overbearingly mean as the other two.