Sid Caesar life and biography

Sid Caesar picture, image, poster

Sid Caesar biography

Date of birth : 1922-09-08
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Yonkers, New York, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-08-30
Credited as : Comedian and actor, tv series Your Show of Shows, and Caesar's Hour

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Isaac Sidney "Sid" Caesar (born September 8, 1922) is an American comic actor and writer known as the leading man on the 1950s television series Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, and to younger generations as Coach Calhoun in Grease and Grease 2.


Sid Caesar is a celebrated comedian who enjoyed particular success on television in the late 1950s. Beginning his show business career in his teens as a saxophone and clarinet player, Caesar played during World War II in the Coast Guard's orchestra, where he entertained his fellow musicians with a variety of offbeat monologues. Caesar's comedic talents earned him a role in the Coast Guard revue Tars and Spars, which toured America in the mid-1940s. Caesar also appeared in the revue's film version, which won him increased recognition as a comic performer. By the late 1940s Caesar was working as a comedian in nightclubs and theaters and was gaining considerable attention. He also realized success in the 1948 Broadway revue Make Mine Manhattan. In 1949 Caesar made his television debut on Admiral Broadway Revue. The medium proved an ideal forum for Caesar's versatility, and the following year he was accorded his own program, Your Show of Shows. This series, which showcased Caesar and fellow performer Imogene Coca in various comic sketches, quickly established him as a master comic. Mel Gussow, writing in the New York Times in 1982, recalled how "in the 1950s Sid Caesar was the funniest man in America." Finding Caesar "a mimic and mime with verbal and visual virtuosity," Gussow added that "he was a natural for the young medium of television, and he became the first celebrated Saturday night live performer."

Caesar enjoyed continued success with subsequent shows including Caesar's Hour, which aired in the mid-1950s, and Sid Caesar Invites You, which aired in 1958. In the 1960s, Caesar concentrated on work in film. He was among the many comedians to appear in the 1963 comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He also remained active in television, where he hosted or was guest in numerous specials. In addition, Caesar served as the regular host of the long-running comedy showcase Love American Style.

In the following decades Caesar worked regularly on stage and in film and television. His stage work included An Evening with Sid Caesar ... The Legendary Genius of Comedy and Sid Caesar and Company: Does Anybody Know What I'm Talking About?, two revues playing in New York City in 1989. The previous year, he appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as Frosch in Die Fledermaus. His film performances in the 1980s include a turn as caveman in History of the World, Part One. On television Caesar continued to appear in various specials, including some shows paying tribute to Caesar's heyday of the 1950s, which Gussow deemed the "halcyon years for American humor."

In his autobiography, Where Have I Been?, Caesar recounts his longtime struggle with substance abuse and psychological difficulties. Here Caesar depicts himself as a volatile, ever-suspicious comic who feared that his talents would actually disappear. Incapable of addressing his concerns, Caesar instead wallowed in alcohol and drugs, what Caesar termed his "twenty year blackout." Only in the late 1970s, after years of self-destructive behavior, did he finally begin to overcome these disorders. Caesar credits psychoanalysis as playing a significant role in his newfound stability.

Where Have I Been? was described by Gussow as "the harrowing story of an artist's gradual awakening to the suffering he has inflicted on the people in his life and, especially, on himself." Frank Rich, writing in the New York Times Book Review, acknowledged that the "self-revelations are unsparing." New Republic contributor Dick Cavett noted that the book "has the inspirational quality of any good recovery tale," affirming that Caesar "has survived the double-barreled ordeals of success and prolonged self-destruction."


Family: Born September 8, 1922, in Yonkers, NY; son of Max (a restaurant owner) and Ida (Raffel) Caesar; married Florence Levy, July 17, 1943; children: Michele, Richard, Karen. Education: Studied saxophone and clarinet at Juilliard School of Music. Avocational Interests: Collecting guns.


Donaldson Award, 1949, for Make Mine Manhattan; named best television comedian by TV Guide, 1950; named man of the year by Radio Daily, 1950; award for best television comedian from Look, 1951, for Your Show of Shows; gold medal from Catholic War Veterans of America; Emmy Award for best actor from Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1951, for Your Show of Shows; award for best television comedian from Look, 1956, for Caesar's Hour; Emmy Award for best continuing performance by a comedian in a series, 1956, for Caesar's Hour; received five Emmy awards in 1957; Sylvania Award, best comedy/variety show of 1958, for Sid Caesar Invites You; nomination for Antoinette Perry award (Tony award) for best actor, League of American Theaters and Producers, 1963, for Little Me; inducted into U.S. Hall of Fame, 1967, and Television Hall of Fame, 1987; Emmy Award for outstanding television special, for The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special.


Performer and writer. Worked variously as movie usher and doorman; saxophonist and clarinetist with the Charlie Spivak, Claude Thornhill, and Shep Fields dance bands, New York City, beginning in 1939. Performer in stage productions, including Tars and Spars, 1945; Make Mine Manhattan, 1948; Little Me, 1962; Four on a Garden, 1971; Last of the Red Hot Lovers, 1972; The Prisoner of Second Avenue and Double Take, both 1974; Night of One Hundred Stars, 1982; Die Fledermaus (opera), 1988; An Evening with Sid Caesar ... The Legendary Genius of Comedy, 1989; Sid Caesar and Company: Does Anybody Know What I'm Talking About?, 1989; and Together Again, 1990. Actor in motion pictures, including Tars and Spars, 1946; Guilt of Janet Ames, 1947; It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1963; The Spirit is Willing, 1967; A Guide for the Married Man, 1967; Ten from Your Show of Shows, 1973; Airport '75, 1974; Silent Movie, 1976; Fire Sales, 1977; The Cheap Detective and Grease, both 1978; History of the World, Part One, 1981; Grease 2, 1982; and Cannonball Run II, 1984. Performer in television shows, including Admiral Broadway Revue, 1949; Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, 1950-54; Caesar's Hour, 1954-57; Sid Caesar Invites You, 1958; The Sid Caesar Show, 1963-64; The Hollywood Palace, 1964-70; also in numerous television specials, films, and other programs. Wartime service: U.S. Coast Guard Orchestra, 1942-45.


* (With Bill Davidson) Where Have I Been? (autobiography), Crown, 1982.

Also writer for Six On, Twelve Off (stage revue), 1942-44; and Your Show of Shows (television special), 1976.

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