Comedy genius Sid Caesar died Wednesday at the age of 91 at his home in the Los Angeles area after being ill for a brief period of time.
Family spokesman Eddy Friedfeld said, “He had not been well for a while. He was getting weak.” Friedfeld, with the help of Caesar, wrote the 2003 biography, Caesar’s Hours: My Life in Comedy, With Love and Laughter. Friedfeld learned of Caesar’s passing when Caesar’s daughter Karen called him early Wednesday morning. Friedfeld himself last spoke to Caesar 10 days ago.
Caesar is most famously known for his two 1950s TV series Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour. Caesar’s comedic genius was displayed with his different dialects, mimcry, pantomime, satire, and sketch comedy. He also paved the way for comedians on television – gathering many of them as writer’s for his shows. Some of the most famous names to work with Caesar include Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart ( who adapted M*A*S*H for TV), and Woody Allen.
Of Caesar’s pioneering in television, Friedfeld said, “He and his costars and writers created modern television. Before Sid, television was burlesque and wrestling and bowling. They brought this modern sensibility; they created characters and stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. All the great sitcoms that followed, like All in the Family, Cheers, Frasier, and now Modern Family owe their legacy to Sid Caesar.”
Added Friedfeld, “Sid was an innovator, he and his team. He was very careful about never taking credit alone. He believed in his co-stars and his writers. They created the amazing vehicles for him to be creative.”
In a statement Allen said, “He was one of the truly great comedians of my time and one of the finest privileges I’ve had in my entire career was that I was able to work for him.”
Reiner also spoke of Caesar, saying Caesar was “inarguably the greatest pantomimist, monologist and single sketch comedian who ever worked in television.”
Caesar didn’t just find fame on television, he also worked on Broadway and in film. Many times working for those who had once written for his shows, including Brooks’ Silent Movie and Simon’s Little Me and The Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
Friends and fans alike took to Twitter to remember Caesar.
Sorry to learn about the passing of Sid Caesar-a dear friend, a comic genius & an American classic- there will never be another one like him
— Larry King (@kingsthings) February 12, 2014
Sid Caesar was a giant-maybe the best comedian who ever practiced the trade & I was privileged to be one of his writers & one of his friends
— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) February 12, 2014
Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca gave Dom DeLuise and me our start on Your Show of Shows as a comedy duo. I will miss you Sid; rest in peace.
— RUTH BUZZI (@Ruth_A_Buzzi) February 12, 2014
Rest in Peace Sid Caesar, true comedic genius.
— Phil Rosenthal (@whereslunchphil) February 12, 2014
RIP Sid Caesar. He assembled the greatest writers room of all time.
— Morgan Evans (@totallymorgan) February 12, 2014