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Sid Caesar's Very Best

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What began in 1949 as "The Admiral (Television) Broadway Revue" on CBS Saturday nights emerged as the one of two original "pre-SNL's," Sid Caesar;s "Your Show Of Shows" with the underestimated co-star Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howie Morris and Nanette Fabray. (Ernie Kovacs being the other pre-SNL). Along with Caesar and Reiner, comedy writing was assisted also by then upstarts: a very young Woody Allen (who joined the foray along about the mid 1950's and Larry Gelbart, who came on board after the "Admiral" years. The full length comedy sketches here are the favorites of the audiences and the stars. Sid, himself, got the singing trio idea after watching the then unknown new-groove "Crew Cuts" singing group open the show at the Copacabana for more conventional "The Four Aces," Woody came up with the Italian Marriage skit and Gelbart is credited with the "This Is Your Life" parody; like Kovacs and Gleason with their shows, everything on the "Show Of Shows, soup to nuts, was ably under the thumb of Sid, himself.

About Sid Caesar Sid Caesar, born Isaac Sidney Caesar September 8, 1922, is an Emmy-winning comic actor and writer, best known as the leading man on the 1950s television sketch comedy series Your Show of Shows.

Sid Caesar was raised in Yonkers, New York. His father was proprietor of a luncheonette where immigrant workers would gather. From them Sid learned to mimic many of the accents that he would use throughout his career. After graduating high school, he planned on a career in music, playing the saxophone. While he earned a reputation as a talented musician in the "Borscht Belt" in the Catskills, he also began performing comedy sketches, and became a sensation.

Sid served in the Coast Guard during World War II. He scheduled entertainment for the enlisted men. This took him to Los Angeles, where he got a part in two films, Tars and Spars, based on a wartime comedy routine he did, and The Guilt of Janet Ames. By 1949 he entered the new medium of television, hosting The Admiral Broadway Review.

Television was a natural medium for Caesar. Over the next few years he hosted such hits as Your Show of Shows (1950-1954), Caesar's Hour (1954-1957) and Sid Caesar Invites You (1958). These shows, particularly Your Show of Shows, brought together some of the greatest comic talent of the day, including Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. Many prominent writers got their start writing the skits, including Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Tolkin, and Larry Gelbart.

Sid Caesar's life took a turn when his show was cancelled by the CBS suits in 1958. In his autobiography he confesses that he turned to alcohol and drugs to overcome the insecurity of having a successful career unravel. He did make several appearances on Broadway, in television (The Sid Caesar Show, 1963-1964) and in the movies, most notably in Mel Brooks's Silent Movie in 1976 and as Coach Calhoun in 1978's Grease, but even though he continues to work, he has never recaptured the stature he had in the Golden Age of Television. Also on this webpage: Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner biographies

About Imogene Coca When Imogene Coca began working with Sid Caesar in 1949, American actress Imogene Coca agreed to have her birth date changed to 1920, so that she would appear more a contemporary of Sid Caesar.

Imogene Coca was actually born in 1908, performing professionally while Caesar was in puberty. Thinking that she was not attractive by 1930s standards (though certainly so by the standards of the present), Coca realized early that she'd never be taken seriously as an actress or dancer. She began doing "schtick," lampooning the Classic Arts. Coca first caught the endearance of the public in Leonard Silleman's New Faces of 1937, co-starring with then-husband Robert Burton.

1937 also found Imogene Coca made her film debut in tDime a Dancethe with Danny Kaye, June Allyson and Barry Sullivan. During this period, Coca starred in experimental television broadcasts, recreating her best New Faces sketches. She met producer Max Liebman while starring in the resort-hotel Tamiment revues of the 1940s.

It was Liebman's inspiration to team Coca with another Tamiment alumnus Sid Caesar on the 1949 TV weekly The Admiral Revue. This project led to the immortal Your Show of Shows (1950-54), wherein Caesar and Coca shared the spotlight with Carl Reiner and Howard Morris. In 1954, Caesar and Coca parted company. Caesar was able to sustain his success as a solo for awhile, but 1954's The Imogene Coca Show failed to do the actress justice and lasted only a year. Most of Coca's subsequent projects were likewise beneath her talents and doomed to failure. She starred with second husband King Donovan in the 1959 Broadway flop The Girls in 509, was a featured player in the 1963 comedy film Under the Yum Yum Tree, and headlined two weekly TV series, Grindl (1963) and It's About Time (1967). A 1967 TV reunion with Sid Caesar, and the 1973 theatrical release of Ten From Your Show of Shows, thrust Coca back into prominence, allowing her to thrive on the touring-show and tent-musical circuit. In the last two decades, her career has encompassed such highs as the Broadway musical On the 20th Century (as a dotty religious fanatic) and such lows as TV's Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1982), in which she played Granny's mother. Imogene Coca's most memorable movie appearance of recent years has been as the troublesome Aunt Edna in National Lampoon's Vacation (1983), whose death en route to California provides the film its most tastelessly hilarious sight gag. Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

About Carl Reiner Carl Reiner is one of the few true Renaissance persons of 20th-century mass media. Known primarily for his work as creator, writer and producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show--one of a handful of classic sitcoms by which others are measured--Reiner has also made his mark as a comedian, actor, novelist, and film director. From Reiner's "Golden Age" TV connection with Sid Caesar to his later film work with Steve Martin, the Emmy award-winning Reiner has touched three generations of American comedy.

According to Vince Waldron's Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, Reiner began his career as a sketch comedian in the Catskill Mountains. After serving in World War II, he landed the lead role in a national touring company production of Call Me Mister, which he later reprised on Broadway. Reiner's big break came in 1950 when producer Max Leibman, whom he had met while working in the Catskills, cast Reiner as a comic actor in Sid Ceasar's Your Show of Shows. Drawn to the creative genius of the show's writers, which included Mel Brooks and Neil Simon, Reiner ended up contributing ideas for many of the series' sketches. The experience undoubtably provided Reiner with a good deal of fodder for his later Dick Van Dyke Show. While he never received credit for his writing efforts on Your Show of Shows, in 1955 and 1956 he received his first two of many Emmy awards, these for his role as supporting actor. In 1957, Reiner conquered another medium when he adapted one of his short stories into Enter Laughing, a semi-autobiographical novel focusing on a struggling actor's desire to break into show business. In 1963 the book became a hit play.

By the summer of 1958, after Caesar's third and final series was canceled, Reiner spent the summer preparing for what many consider his greatest accomplishment--writing the first thirteen episodes of Head of the Family, a sitcom featuring the exploits of fictional New York comedy writer Rob Petrie. Originally intended as an acting vehicle for himself, Reiner's pilot failed to sell. However, Danny Thomas Productions' producer Sheldon Leonard liked the idea and said it had potential if it were re-cast--which was Leonard's nice way of saying, "Keep Reiner off camera." When Reiner's Rob Petrie was replaced with TV newcomer Dick Van Dyke--who had just enjoyed a successful Broadway run in Bye, Bye Birdie--The Dick Van Dyke Show was born.

As with Enter Laughing, Reiner's sitcom was autobiographical. Like Petrie, Reiner was a New York writer who lived in New Rochelle. Like Petrie, Reiner spent part of his World War II days at Camp Crowder in Joplin, Missouri, a fact that was brought out in several flashback episodes. Even Petrie's 148 Bonny Meadow Road address was an allusion to Reiner's own 48 Bonny Meadow Road home.

Perhaps it was this realism that contributed to the series' timelessness, making it a precursor for such sophisticated and intelligent sitcoms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Just as with these later works, Reiner's series placed character integrity over raw laughs. By being the first to combine both the home and work-life of the series' main character, Reiner also provided interesting insights regarding both sedate suburbia and urbane New York. The Dick Van Dyke Show also serves as an early example of the "co-workers as family" format, which has become a staple relationship in modern sitcoms.

Carl Reiner was one of the first "auteur producers," with his first thirteen episodes becoming the bible upon which consequent episodes were based. He continued to write many of the series' best episodes, as well as portray recurring character Alan Brady, the egomaniacal star of the variety program for which Petrie and crew wrote. After a tough first season in 1961, Leonard was able to convince CBS executives, who had canceled the series, to give it a second chance. The series became a top hit in subsequent years, enjoying five seasons before voluntarily retiring. Of course, the reruns have never left the air, and it, along with I Love Lucy, comprise some of the most-watched programs in syndication history. Those series, along with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, have also become the flagship programs of classic TV powerhouse Nick at Nite.

While many view The Dick Van Dyke Show as the culmination of Reiner's career, his films cannot be ignored. After directing Enter Laughing in 1967, Reiner went on to do several critically acclaimed films such as The Comic (1969), a black comedy which starred Dick Van Dyke as an aging silent-film comedian, and Where's Poppa (1970). Reiner also directed the wildly successful George Burns vehicle Oh, God! (1977). Reiner is also significant for his role as straight man in "The 2,000 Year Old Man" recordings, which he began with Mel Brooks in 1960.

In the 1970s, Reiner and Van Dyke re-entered television with The New Dick Van Dyke Show. While Reiner had hoped to break new ground, he became frustrated with the network's family standard provisions that hampered its sophistication. It wasn't until 1976 that Reiner returned to series television as actor and executive producer of the short-lived ABC sitcom Good Heavens.

Just as The Dick Van Dyke Show represented a departure from standard sitcom fare of the 1960s, Saturday Night Live and its most famous guest host Steve Martin were forging their own late-1970s humor. Once again on the cutting edge, Reiner joined forces with Martin as the "wild and crazy" comedian made the transition to film, with Reiner directing The Jerk (1979), The Man With Two Brains (1983), and All of Me (1984).

In a 1995 episode of the NBC comedy series, Mad About You, Reiner reprised his role as Alan Brady. In the fictional world of the newer sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show is "real," as is the Brady character. Reiner's performance drew on the entire body of his work, from his days with Sid Caeser through his work as writer, director, and producer, and the portrait he presented in this new context echoed with references to the television history he has lived and to which he has so fully contributed.

About Howie Morris Howard Morris was born in Bronx, New York. He came to prominence in appearances on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows (a live sketch comedy television series appearing weekly in the United States, from 1950 until June 5, 1954). Although Morris was a classically trained Shakespearean actor, he is best remembered for playing the wily and over the top "mountain man" character Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show. He had lampooned southern accents while in the army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He starred in one of the more comical early hour-long Twilight Zone episodes, "I Dream of Genie".

Morris also played a variety of voices in many Hanna-Barbera series (including The Jetsons as "Jet Screamer" who sang the "Eep opp ork ah ah!" song,[1] and The Flintstones). He also voiced the characters Professor Icenstein and Luigi La Bounci in the animated series Galaxy High. He played a fine art dealer once on the Dick Van Dyke Show. Morris provided the original vocalizations for the Hamburglar ("Robble, robble, robble") in McDonald's 1971 ad campaign. He is also remembered by Filmation and Archie Show fans as the voice of Jughead Jones throughout the life of the franchise. Morris also played "Wade Duck" in the U.S. Acres segment of Garfield and Friends.

While Morris continued to make himself available for voice and sound effect roles, he also began a new career in voice directing. Among the projects he directed are Police Academy, Richie Rich, Bionic Six, Galaxy High, The Snorks, The Mighty Orbots, Rose Petal Place, The Dogfather and Kidd Video. In The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh he did the voice of Gopher and became one of his most famous roles.

In the 1980s he voiced a regular character on the cartoon series Garfield and Friends. On the show, he voiced Wade Duck, a cowardly duck who was said to have had "almost every phobia known to man and some known to duck."

He also performed nearly all of the voices in the 1960 Oscar-winning cartoon MUNRO, directed by Gene Deitch.

Mel Brooks occasionally cast Morris in his films. For example, he played Brooks' mentor psychiatrist in the 1977 comedy High Anxiety, the emperor's court spokesman ("Here, wash this!") in History of the World, Part I, and played a memorable role as a would-be sailor living in the streets in 1991's Life Stinks.

In 1986, he reprised his famous role as Ernest T. Bass in the high-rated TV movie Return to Mayberry. Howard also directed some episodes on Hogan's Heroes

Howie Morris died of a heart ailment at age 85 in 2005. He is interred in a crypt at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City, California.


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