You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmy commemorative: Heavyweight – Sid Caesar

All hail Caesar's wit

Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills as his inspirations.

“Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton. They were my heroes,” Caesar says. “They were gods. I used to get chills watching them.”

A kid musician, playing saxophone and clarinet, the 16-year old Caesar left Yonkers, N.Y., after high school to work full time in the Borscht Belt hotels in the Catskill Mountains.

“We did Clifford Odets plays, we did skits. This was my college. This is where I honed my acting skills,” Caesar explains. Although only 23 when he made his “Show of Shows” debut, Caesar had already begun to find his own characters.

“By then,” he says, “your own personality comes across.”

There was no time, he jokes, to contemplate the legacy they were creating (and which is available for sale, digitally restored, on his Web site: wwwsidcaesar.com).

“We were fighting for our lives, believe me,” Caesar says. “It was scary. We didn’t have time to look at the kinescopes.”

Those shows made a difference, however, because everyone in the family could enjoy them, he says.

“We couldn’t even say damn, and I think that was good, because the censorship forced us to think, and that made the skits funnier.”

Recently given the TV Critics Assn.’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Caesar describes those magical early TV years in musical terms.

“We had a rhythm,” he says, “A good show, followed by a better show, then a better show. Then you’d crash, because you can’t keep topping yourself.”

More TV

  • Benicio Del Toro as Richard Matt

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Nov. 12, 2018: 'Escape at Dannemora,' 'Narcos'

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

  • Netflix Series ‘Medal of Honor’ Spotlights Historical Scenes of War

    Netflix Series 'Medal of Honor' Spotlights Historical Scenes of War

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

  • TBS 'Full Frontal with Samantha Bee'

    Samantha Bee Plans 'Full Frontal' Holiday Special

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

  • CBS announced today that former college

    Tim Tebow to Host LeBron James' 'Million Dollar Mile' at CBS

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

  • Anne Mensah Exiting as Sky's Head

    Anne Mensah Exiting as Sky's Head of Drama, Joining Netflix

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

  • Craig ZadanTune In! Variety's TV Summit,

    Jennifer Hudson, Renee Zellweger and More Remember Craig Zadan at Star-Studded Tribute

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

  • MTV Acquires SnowGlobe Music Festival With

    MTV Acquires SnowGlobe Music Festival With Eye on Expansion, New Year's Eve Programming

    Earle Marsh, veteran television historian, describes Sid Caesar’s status unequivocally: “He’s probably the first television-bred comic TV genius,” Marsh says bluntly. “He really didn’t have an earlier career.” Indeed, Caesar confirms, he never did radio, never did vaudeville. Instead, the mega-star who lit up “Your Show of Shows” credits classic movie comedians and the Catskills […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content