One of the most creative geniuses of early television passed away earlier this year. Sid Caesar, born into a family of Jewish immigrants in 1922, starred in the television comedy series Your Show of Shows (1950-54) and later Caesar's Hour (54-57). He learned the art, of rebellious behavior of mimicking people at an early age, which led him to become one of the great television pioneers. Caesar often embodied a humorous caricature of otherwise serious ordinary people and entertainers engaged in serious tasks. Caesar mastered several talents including music composition and playing the saxophone with notable orchestras of the day.
He once performed a sendup of This Is your Life where, instead of letting his past acquaintances shower him with accolades, he desperately tried to get away, as seen in these two classic clips below. (That's Howard Morris or Earnest T. Bass of Andy Griffith fame, hanging on to Caesar. Morris later used this same leg clutching routine in the Andy Griffith Show.)
Caesar employed a number of notable writers such as Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks,Imogene Coca and Howard Morris. Reiner,Coca and Morris appeared in many of Caesar's comedy sketches. Some critics today pass off Caesar's humor as shallow and one dimensional. Those who do so fail to understand the cultural context of Caesar's early work. Vaudevillian humor ruled the hour and many of those early television comedy sketches evolved from Vaudeville. This particular genre was designed solely for the purpose of entertaining those who sought refuge from life's difficulties. Your Show of Shows descended from Vaudeville and added several nuances to its variety show themes, chief among them, the ability to make sport of human nature challenging the audience to look in the mirror, lighten up, and not take themselves too seriously- a lost virtue in today's affluent American society.