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Sid Caesar is a comedian and the creator of the classic Emmy Award-winning television variety program Your Show of Shows.
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Sid Caesar was born in 1922 in Yonkers, New York. The son of immigrants, Caesar worked as a musician during the Great Depression. At the start of World War II, he joined the Coast Guard and was stationed in Brooklyn, playing military revues. In the 1940s, Caesar developed a nightclub act on Broadway, which he turned into the popular and Emmy Award-winning television program Your Show of Shows. He also appeared in the Grease film musicals.
"The best thing about humor is that it shows people they're not alone."
Born in Yonkers, New York, on September 8, 1922, comedian Sid Caesar is the youngest of three brothers. Both of his parents immigrated to the United States as children—his father from Poland and his mother from Russia. His last name was given to his father by an immigration officer at Ellis Island. The Caesar family ran a restaurant in Yonkers.
Caesar started out as a musician. He reportedly took up the saxophone after a customer left one behind at his parents' restaurant. During his years at Yonkers High School, Caesar started playing in a band. After graduating in 1939, he found work in the summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains. Caesar was hired as a musician, but he also started doing some comedy as well.
During World War II, Caesar served with the U.S. Coast Guard. His famous sense of humor was discovered by a producer who put him in a Coast Guard revue called Tars and Stars as a comedian. Caesar also appeared in a film version of the production released in 1946.
Caesar made his way to Broadway two years later in Make Mine Manhattan. This popular revue helped him make the leap into an emerging medium—television—the following year. Caesar starred in the variety show The Admiral Broadway Revue alongside Imogene Coca and Marge and Gower Champion. While this program didn't last long, Caesar's next effort would make television history.
In 1950, Sid Caesar quickly became a Saturday night favorite with Your Show of Shows, a sketch comedy program co-starring Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and others. He created a beloved array of characters, from the Professor to cool musician Progress Hornsby. Caesar was a gifted mine and mimic, earning himself comparisons to Charlie Chaplin. His talents were greatly enhanced by a stellar writing staff that included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart during the show's four-year run. Behind the scenes, however, Caesar battled with problems with alcohol.
After Your Show of Shows ended in 1954, Caesar moved on to his next successful television project: Caesar's Hour. He won his second Emmy Award for his work on this variety show in 1957. Reuniting with Imogene Coca, he starred in another entertainment program, Sid Caesar Invites You. Sadly, this show proved to be short-lived.
In the early 1960s, Caesar returned to Broadway in the musical comedy Little Me. He received much praise for his performance, including a Tony Award nomination. Caesar made another attempt to recapture his earlier TV success with The Sid Caesar Show in 1963, but the program failed to catch on with viewers.
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