Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Sid Caesar (1922–2014)

(The NY Times' neat photo compilation.)

The great Sid Caesar has died. I mainly knew him from countless viewings of the compilation film, 10 From Your Show of Shows, a great showcase for his immensely talented comedy troupe. I later caught additional sketches (all excellent), and learned about his dream team of writers, including Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Larry Gelbart. (Carl Reiner was both a writer and performer.) It's just staggering. Caesar himself was a stupendous comic actor, and had an immense talent for both pantomime and improvising in gibberish and fake foreign languages when required. (He called it "doubletalk." The brilliant Imogene Coca could perform it, but needed it written out, whereas Caesar would spout it off-the-cuff.)

The Wikipedia entry linked above is quite good and full of great quotations about Caesar. He's also appeared in fictionalized form, most notably in My Favorite Year (Mel Brooks was its uncredited executive producer) and Laughter on the 23rd Floor, the stage play by Neil Simon. The Caesar portrayed in those was fairly true-to-life – extremely talented, passionate, driven, an addict and a bit of a personal mess, the occasional bout of temper, committed to excellence in the craft, and deep down, caring deeply about his team. (Although it should be mentioned that those who caught Caesar at a bad time, especially during his heavy addictions years, don't remember him fondly on a personal level.)

If you can find it, PBS aired a great reunion called Caesar's Writers. Meanwhile, here are some clips and links:

"Five Dollar Date," which he wrote, and shows off his versatility, verbal skills and energy:

"The German General," written by Mel Brooks, and one of Caesar's best double-talking performances:

"From Here to Obscurity," one of the many film parodies (and quite long by today's standards):

"This Is Your Story," supposedly one of Caesar's personal favorites:

Mel Brooks about Sid Caesar on Conan:

The Daily Beast has five more clips, including "The Clock" and "At the Movies."

The Los Angeles Times obituary.

The New York Times obituary.

The NPR obituary.

The Hollywood Reporter obituary.

The Variety obituary.

The BBC obituary.

The PBS NewsHour obituary.

Billy Crystal's tribute: "Why Did I Become a Comic? He Inspired Me."

Ken Levine's thoughts on Sid Caesar (he didn't have a good experience interviewing him, but it's a classy piece).

The Orlando Sentinel appreciation.

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