The passing of Sid Caesar is the passing of yet another icon, this time the master of television. Caesar is perhaps the last of the true comedy pioneers of the small screen, as Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, Steve Allen, Jack Parr, and Ernie Kovacs have all gone. His 90 minute "Your Show of Shows" comedy series of the 1950s is legendary, even for those of us who lived long after its run, and realize its impact only from existing clips. Same for the subsequent "Caesar's Hour." His shows were the training ground for such writers as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, and Carl Reiner. Reiner also performed on the show, along with Imogene Coca and Howard Morris. Reiner, who is the only one still living, is the one who broke the news to the press about his friend.
Sid's life was not always amusing. He admits to having forgotten entire years of his life, and his angry posturing and overbearing personality was often difficult and frightening to those around him. But his talent and creative vision is undeniable.
Sid Caesar went beyond rattling off a series of one-liners or jokes. He created sketches that investigated and challenged the prevailing culture. Everything from foreign films to rock groups formed the basis for Caesar's ideas. One of his most famous sketches, a parody of Ralph Edwards' then-popular "This is Your Life," remains one of the most outrageously funny skits in all of TV history. Another favorite was Caesar's performance as The Professor, who bluffed his way through inerviews with roving reporter Reiner.
Although carefully scripted and painstakingly rehearsed, the sketches Sid Caesar and his co-stars did had a delightful off-the-cuff feeling. One can not help but be impressed by the fact that these shows were performed live, and had only ten or less minutes of commercials over an hour's time.
Caesar also appeared in films, most notably the all-star blockbuster comedy "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."
Sid Caesar is a true icon of television's golden age of the 1950s, a particularly fertile ground for great writing and acting, especially in regard to comedy. His passing at 91 makes the world just a bit less funny.