February 12, 2014

"If you want to find the ur-texts of ‘The Producers’ and ‘Blazing Saddles,’ of ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Annie Hall,’ of ‘All in the Family’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’..."

"... check out the old kinescopes of Sid Caesar."

Goodbye to Sid Caesar. He was 91.



ADDED: "Everybody thinks that Sid waited to be pumped up with intelligence and with material from his writers. They thought that he was just like — he'd sit there like a crazy empty balloon and that we would come in and we would pump him up and make, you know, we'd make a human being out of him. His tongue would stick out and he would talk and be funny, you know? But, believe it or not, Sid was one of the funniest guys, even away from the writers and the writing room."

Said Mel Brooks.

"Sid was the flame... Every writer was a moth who wanted to hang around that flame. There wasn't a writer in television who didn't want to be licking around that flame."

Said Carl Reiner.

38 comments:

CWJ said...

Ur-texts?

Before Allen. Before Brooks. Before Lear. Before Altman. There was of course Caesar, and I give him credit.

Nil nisi bonum. But before Caesar there were a legion of comics in the same tradition. There are no ur-rexts in this case.

Carol said...

I was old enough but we never watched him. My mother must not have liked "the type."

David said...

He will probably have Phillip Seymour Hoffman busting a gut.

Sid lasted longer because his drug of choice was women. It worked for him.

David said...

So who's next, Brooks or Rooney?

Imogene is already gone.

Sid was funny without Imogene, but as funny, and without her usually not clean enough for his era of tv. She was a riot.

Lucien said...

Per Larry Gelbart, as told to Terry Gross, Sid used to carry around a big pistol (Webley?) because he thought that Otto Skorzeny was coming to kill him. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

rhhardin said...

I liked the Ernie Kovacs tilted room, but I was a lot younger then. That was dialogue free.

Sid Caesar with dialogue never struck me as funny.

Basically the jokes were awful.

gspencer said...

Always thought that Caesar was way over-rated; never considered him particularly funny.

johnnymcguirk said...

"In his 1992 autobiography 'Where have I been? ' Caesar said he drank heavily in those pressure-packed years and became dependent on drugs. He'd spent most of two decades in a fog of alcohol and drugs..." Nice try though David !

rcocean said...

Mel and Carl are being quite nice. Reiner is the same age as Sid, and Mel Brooks is only 4 years younger.

Yet, Brooks and Reiner went on to do great things in the 60s and 70s. And Sid didn't do much after the "Show of Shows".

When TV first started there was a dearth of talent and mediocre talents like Sid and Milton Berle (Guy who wore a dress) got more publicity than their talent deserved.

rcocean said...

As for Kovacs, he was pioneer, but later comics surpassed him and were much funnier.

SGT Ted said...

Another legend passes.

Unknown said...

There is no evidence of an "Ur-Hamlet" - zero, zip, zilch, nada.

just my pet peeve, carry-on.

J Lee said...

Here's a more melancholy assessment of Cesar's later years from TV writer Mark Evanier, who basically says Sid was locked into the 1950s and really could only perform as a sketch character, not as Sid Cesar.

Titus said...

The Russian pair figure skaters are about to take the ice for their long program and my hog is growing.

They did an interview with them and the male from this team is so fucking beautiful....I love him and want him.

Are Russians cut or uncut?

tits.

MadisonMan said...

Sid Caesar never really got to me. Imogene Coca: funny. Red Skelton: funny. Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks: funny.

Sid Caesar just wasn't. Yet he's famous as a funny person.

It's not him, it's me, I guess.

Titus said...

Jesus the Russians are so dramatic...love it.

Now...The Adams Family music!!!!!!

Titus said...

The German pair skater male is really fucking brown and hot.

Is he muzzie?

I would totally do him. Love the nose.

rcocean said...

Great Post JLee. Yes, I think that's it, Sid was a great character sketch comic, and that's about it.

Revenant said...

Sid was a great character sketch comic, and that's about it.

Well, one other thing: he had a great eye for talent.

In a way he reminds me of Roger Corman, who was personally limited as a director but launched the careers of half the academy-award-winning directors of the last 40 years. No Corman, no "Godfather Parts I and II". Ok, and no "Godfather Part III" either, but give Corman a break, he's not omniscient. :)

Much, if not most, of the great film and television comedy of the 60s and 70s were made by people Caesar recruited for Your Show of Shows. As a comic he was pretty good, but as a person who understood what was funny he was first-rate.

betamax3000 said...

To Althouse's List of Caesar-Inspired Comedy that Followed I'll Add One More: 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', with Carl Reiner Portraying the Caesar Character.

Sitting in the Office All Day making Jokes with Sally and Buddy, then Going Home at a Reasonable Hour to Mary Tyler Moore in Her Leggings: This Set the Impossible Dream of Employment, and May Be the Seed of a Generation's Discontent with the Lesser Reality of Their Workplace, and -- Possibly -- their Spouses.


betamax3000 said...

Re: "If you want to find the ur-texts of ‘The Producers’ and ‘Blazing Saddles,’ of ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Annie Hall,’ of ‘All in the Family’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’..."

Passing Thought: All of These Could Be Remade Word-for-Word Today, if Someone Wished, with the Glaring Exception of "Blazing Saddles": Sure, No Problem with the Campfire Scene and Mongo, But Much of the Race-Based Comedy Wouldn't be Touched in Today's World (RIP Richard Pryor).

betamax3000 said...

As a Child I Already Knew That -- in Cartoons, Westerns, etc -- 'RIP' Meant "Rest in Peace." Not Sure Exactly How I Picked That Up. Would Be Curious on the OED of It.

betamax3000 said...

Also Not Sure if This is "Strangely Early in the Morning" or Just "Strangely Late at Night."

betamax3000 said...

RE: "Also Not Sure if This is "Strangely Early in the Morning" or Just "Strangely Late at Night.""

I Think I Will Draw that Distinction at "The Hour of the Wolf". From Wiki:

"The hour of the wolf is that hour around 3 a.m. when you can't sleep because you're worried about one thing or another."

betamax3000 said...

Not Sure Which Time Zone the Wolves Are In.

betamax3000 said...

For the Mind Wolves it Is Always 3am Somewhere.

FleetUSA said...

And here is Sid showing his saxophone talents:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5mZQ_8saWI

Robert Cook said...

Back in the early or mid-70s, Imogene Coca was appearing in a production of something-or-other at the local dinner theater in Jacksonville, Florida, where I grew up, (after moving there from Indiana at age 8 with my family). We lived at the beach, a sleepy backwater at the time, and amidst the Winn-Dixies and A&Ps, there were a smattering of small mom & pop groceries. We shopped in one of these small markets and one day while there, who would I see pushing a market through the narrow aisles shopping for her own groceries but Imogene Coca!

I was only a teen at the time, and had never seen YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS or the later Sid Caesar show, having been born during the years they aired, but I knew of the shows and I had seen Caesar and Coca in some of their later performances.

I didn't approach Ms. Coca, but I was struck by how unassuming she seemed, shopping by herself. She could have been just another suburban housewife.

Roger Sweeny said...

My God, he looks like Rodney Dangerfield.

Roger Sweeny said...

My God, he looks like Rodney Dangerfield.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

"The Ur-Hamlet (the German prefix Ur- means "primordial") is the name given to a play of unknown authorship mentioned as early as 1589, a decade before most scholars believe Shakespeare composed Hamlet, but also involving the character of Hamlet. Several surviving references indicate that such a play was well known throughout the decade of the 1590s, some time before the first published texts of Shakespeare's play (1603, 1604).
-- Wikipedia

victoria said...

He was awesome. funniest guy ever.


Vicki from Pasadena

RecChief said...

that bit wouldn't work nowadays. Reality has caught up with comedy.

Robert Cook said...

"that bit wouldn't work nowadays. Reality has caught up with comedy."

What do you mean? It was still funny...which means the bit works nowadays.

Sam L. said...

I enjoyed Sid's show, and the characters who supported him. PBS, many years ago, put out "10 From Your Show Of Shows", 10 Kinescopes of great skits. I taped it.

Wilbur said...

I was born in 1954. I only knew Imogene Coca from "Grendyl", and at age 10 was unimpressed.

I never got the whole "Sid Caesar is God" thing, either. His mugging was funny for about 30 seconds, not for a 8 minute sketch.

Alan Brady was much funnier.

jono39 said...

Thank you Anne, If you had not posted, I would not have ready any of the stuff or watched the gems available on U Tube. I thank you for inspiring a wonderful hour of rich vaudeville -- perfect timing, glib delivery, gesture and language operating together -- theater on television before the medium destroyed the live talent and replaced it with something more cerebral and much more hit and miss. Again thank you and the memory of your parents who allowed you to watch. Mine did not.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't remember watching this show, actually,. Just knew about it. Didn't watch Milton Berle either. Don't know why, other than that my parents didn't watch much tv.