Comedic great Sid Caesar passed away yesterday at the age of 91. If you have never seen his comedy, you missed out on a brilliance that was truly dazzling. A talented musician and gifted performer, Caesar mixed highly intellectual comedy with an incredible ability to pantomime, act, and draw laughter on virtually every subject he expounded upon. He worked with the all-time comedic giants, including close friends Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Nannette Fabray, Steve Allen, Howie Morris, and just about anyone you can name from the early and classic days of live comedy television. His Your Show of Shows was a 90 minute sketch comedy show that is as funny sixty years after its broadcast as it was when first aired. His award-winning comedy sketch, which is a close-up of his face (and in which he does not utter a single word) as his wife (the beautiful Nannette Fabray) comes home from a shopping trip and explains the great bargains she has gotten on her dresses and minks, ends with a tear running down his cheek. He was admired and emulated by virtually every comedic actor of note that followed him.
The Dick van Dyke Show, a situation comedy from the 1960s which starred Carl Reiner as the acerbic star of the fictitious Alan Brady Show, was based on Caesar’s talented group of comedy writers from Your Show of Shows, with Alan Brady loosely parodying Caesar’s own personality.
Caesar starred on Broadway and had dozens of movies to his credit, none more memorable than his starring role in Stanley Kramer’s 1963 comedy epic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad. Mad World. He was a Coast Guard Veteran of World War II, and the son of Jewish (Polish and Russian) immigrants, who got his performing start as a saxophonist in the Catskills.
He and his brand of intellectual humor will be missed. So long, Melville Crump, DDS.