Sid Caesar, legendary Jewish comic and creator of the “Your Show of Shows” and “Caesar’s Hour” series, died today at the age of 91.
Caesar was born in Yonkers, New York on September 8, 1922, to Jewish immigrant parents from Poland.
Caesar showed an aptitude for entertainment at a young age. By 14, he was performing as a saxophonist in the Catskills, and he later audited music classes at the Julliard School of Music. But it was comedy where Caesar would really shine.
The entertainer’s “Your Show of Shows” ran from 1950 to 1954, and “Caesar’s Hour” ran from 1954 to 1957. Show highlights included miming, mimicry, and sketch comedy, using a spectrum of young writers like Neil Simon, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen.
Considered a founder of “observational comedy,” Caesar paved the way for future comedians like Jerry Seinfeld with his insistence that comedy be drawn from mundane, everyday tasks.
“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.”
Caesar was also a theatre veteran and earned a Tony Award nomination for his multiple roles in 1962 Broadway musical “Little Me,” based on the book by Neil Simon. He later starred alongside Carol Channing and Tommy Lee Jones in a Broadway production of “Four on a Garden” in 1971, and also performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the late 1980s.
Caesar was repeatedly nominated for Emmy awards in his long career, taking home two. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and received a career achievement award from the Television Critics Association in 2001. He was also voted America’s Best Comedian by Motion Picture Daily’s TV poll in 1951 and 1952 and won a Sylvania Award in 1958 for his work in television.
He died in Los Angeles after a brief illness.