Pour One Out For Sid Caesar, And Then Yell At Whippersnappers For Not Knowing Who He Was
Sid Caesar passed away today at age 91. Sadly, we here at Happy are not the kind of people who have one million staffers pre-writing one million obituaries stuffed full of every detail about a famous person’s life, as the Editrix keeps refusing to give us an obituary staff, but we will soldier on.
If you go read the New York Times obit, and you really should, you can get a sense of the sheer depth and breadth of Caesar’s career. Basically, if you’ve enjoyed American comedy in the last 60 years, you should have thanked Sid Caesar and his variety show, pretty much the O.G. of variety shows, “Your Show of Shows.” He and his regular co-stars, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris and Carl Reiner, were a pretty much unstoppable sketch comedy machine.
Who wrote that show, and its successor, “Caesar’s Hour,” with and for Caesar? Everyone, actually.
A list of Mr. Caesar’s writers over the years reads like a comedy all-star team. Woody Allen and Mel Brooks did some of their earliest writing for him. So did the most successful playwright in the history of the American stage, Neil Simon. Carl Reiner created one landmark sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”; Larry Gelbart was the principal creative force behind another, “M*A*S*H.” Mel Tolkin wrote numerous scripts for “All in the Family.” The authors of the two longest-running Broadway musicals of the 1960s, Joseph Stein (“Fiddler on the Roof”) and Michael Stewart (“Hello, Dolly!”), were Caesar alumni as well.
Caesar himself — not just his all-star cast of writers — inspired indelible American comedy moments, like Mel Brooks’s famous “horse punch” scene in Blazing Saddles.
Apparently, per the extremely large New York Times obituary staff, Caesar really did punch out a horse — with one punch — for the crime of throwing his wife off its back.
If you are of a certain age, you probably think of Sid Caesar as the thinly veiled inspiration for Carl Reiner’s Alan Brady character on the Dick Van Dyke show.
If this means nothing to you, you are too young to be reading this, probably, and you are sentenced to watching “Your Show of Shows” clips on YouTube the rest of the evening so you learn yourself some culture.
Sid Caesar didn’t really have a sign off catchphrase, but he signed autographs “With love and laughter, Sid Caesar,” and good lord, did he give the world the latter. Rest in peace.