170: Sid Caesar

Promotional photo of Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar from Your Show of Shows, 1952. (NBC photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Promotional photo of Imogene Coca and Sid Caesar from Your Show of Shows, 1952. (NBC photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the birthday of American television comedy pioneer Sid Caesar.

Here are a few things you may not have known about him.

Caesar was born Isaac Sidney Caesar on September 8, 1922 in Yonkers, New York. His parents owned a 24-hour lunch counter where he would wait tables and learn the speech patterns of the wide-ranging group of customers. He developed this into a technique he called double-talk, where he could impersonate someone speaking almost any language. He later worked in the Catskill Mountains as a saxophonist in a band and also learned the basics of comedy. He built upon this knowledge while performing in a military service revue called “Tars and Spars,” which was eventually made into a movie.

Sid Caesar’s first television appearance was on Milton Berle’s “Texaco Star Theater” in 1948. The next year he starred in “Admiral Broadway Revue” which marked the beginning of a partnership with Imogene Coca. The show, which was sponsored by a television manufacturer, was such a hit that the company couldn’t make televisions fast enough and the show was canceled. In 1950 he and Coca began work on “Your Show of Shows” which would go on to be ranked the 30th-best television program of all time by TV Guide. Among the writers for the show were Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. The show lasted until 1954. His later shows employed writers such as Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart, who would go on to develop “M*A*S*H” for TV.

Sid Caesar died on February 12, 2014, after a short illness. He was 91.

Our question, what television series was inspired by Carl Reiner’s experience as a writer on “Your Show of Shows”?

Today is also International Literacy Day, Independence Day in Macedonia and National Day in Andorra. In the United States it is unofficially National Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Nurses Day. It’s the birthday of singer Patsy Cline, actor Peter Sellers and U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Our weekly take-home test: What day does most of the world celebrate a holiday honoring its workers?


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