LOS ANGELES: Sid Caesar, the prodigiously talented pioneer of TV comedy who paired with Imogene Coca in sketches that became classics and who inspired a generation of famous writers, died Wednesday. He was 91.
Family spokesman Eddy Friedfeld said Caesar, who also played Coach Calhoun in the 1978 movie “Grease,” died at his home in the Los Angeles area after a brief illness.
“He had not been well for a while. He was getting weak,” said Friedfeld, who lives in New York and last spoke to Caesar about 10 days ago. Friedfeld, a friend of Caesar’s who wrote the 2003 biography “Caesar’s Hour” learned of his death in an early morning call from Caesar’s daughter, Karen.
Carl Reiner, who worked as a writer-performer with Caesar on his breakthrough “Your Show of Shows” sketch program, said he had an ability to “connect with an audience and make them roar with laughter.”
“Sid Caesar set the template for everybody,” Reiner told KNX-AM in Los Angeles. “He was without a doubt, inarguably, the greatest sketch comedian-monologist that television ever produced. He could adlib. He could do anything that was necessary to make an audience laugh.”
In his two most important shows, “Your Show of Shows,” 1950-54, and “Caesar’s Hour,” 1954-57, Caesar displayed remarkable skill in pantomime, satire, mimicry, dialect and sketch comedy. And he gathered a stable of young writers who went on to worldwide fame in their own right – including Neil Simon and Woody Allen.
“The one great star that television created and who created television was Sid Caesar,” said now-deceased critic Joel Siegel on the TV documentary “Hail Sid Caesar! The Golden Age Of Comedy,” which first aired in 2001.
While best known for his TV shows, which have been revived on DVD in recent years, he also had success on Broadway and occasional film appearances, notably in ” It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”