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Comedy Legend Sid Caesar Dies at 91

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The entertainment world is mourning the loss of legendary comedian Sid Caesar, who died Wednesday at his home in the Los Angeles area at age 91. NY1's Neil Rosen filed the following report.

Sid Caesar was one of the pioneers of television’s Golden Age. His brilliant and diverse comedic talents propelled his landmark program, “The Show of Shows” and later “Caesar’s Hour” into the channels of TV history and made him a star. His famed double talking routines, where he hilariously fakes speaking in numerous different languages became one of his signature bits.

You also had an enduring character known as the professor, who claimed to have an answer to everything but in reality knew very little. With Sid at the helm, both shows contained innovative comedy skits that among other things included sends up of movies and other TV shows. It was intelligent comedy. It was funny. It was unlike most other comedy programs that were on television at the time. Which were either broadbill based or purely slapstick.

The volatile writer’s room for these shows, which Sid strictly supervised, included such noted talents as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart. The environment not only provided a training ground for them, but a spring board to prolific careers later on in both music and on-stage.

Caesar was born in Yonkers, New York. He began his career as a teenager playing saxophone in several Catskill Mountains hotels. He found that when he appeared in comedy sketches, audiences howled. He joined the Coast Guard, when he was eventually assigned to perform in USO entertainment reviews. It was during a production of something called “Tars and Spars,” that he first met producer Max Liedmen, who wound up producing “Your Show of Shows,” he called for Sid to star in it, and the rest was history. The live television program, which was broadcast from New York, not only paved the way for writers, but set a high standard in comedy for running a template that influenced and many, many other programs, that would air on TV over many decades to follow.

After his TV career started top waned in the late 1950s, Sid went on to star on Broadway and took on film roles, most notably in “It’s a Mad Mad Mad World.” He battled alcoholism for many years and eventually won. He wrote openly about his addiction in his best-selling book, "Where Have I Been?"

In the 1980s he created memorable characters in the movie “Grease” and “Grease II.” He was an Emmy-award-wining, one of a kind multi-talented comedic performer who was revered by other comics. Mel Brooks once said that Sid was comedy genius who could play any part and make it funny. He leaves behind a legacy of work that certainly attests to that.

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