Of the nine comics we pay tribute to here, Sid was the senior member of the team. He was a pioneer in television’s golden age, and set the tone for what comedy would look like on television. He launched the careers of dozens of comedians who would go on to be legends themselves– performers like Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen and both Simon brothers got their start in the writers room working for Sid. We asked comedian Shecky Greene, a contemporary and friend to Sid, to share some memories of working with Sid.
He did what nobody else did- that’s what made him a legend. Let me tell you about Sid Caesar. I have maybe 100 stories about Sid Caesar, because, even as quiet as he was when he wasn’t doing his act, and he started to just talk like I’m talking right now (using dialects). One day, he came to see me work in Lake Tahoe. He had never seen me before and he came because I was doing dialects and things and the same things he does. So he invited me the next morning to go up to his suite at the Sahara Hotel in Lake Tahoe to have breakfast with him so I said alright. He had an agent with him, and manager at that time, A.G. So the next day at 10:30, I went over to the Sahara hotel, went up to his room, A.G. answered the door and A.G. says come on in, Sid’s doing a little exercise and he’ll be right out. So I said okay. And then I heard 3,331. 3,332. 3,333. I said what’s he doing, just starting from 1,000? He said no, he’s up to 3,332 already. Sit ups. I said are you putting me on or what? Anyway the door was knocked on, in comes room service and they bring in four tables. We’re going to have breakfast. There’s steak. There’s toast. There’s six eggs. And he had just lost 50 lbs on a diet. And AG says to me, Sid is on a diet. And I said who else is coming for breakfast? He said no, it’s just us. So I said what’s all this food? He said that’s for Sid. That’s what he eats on the diet. So I listened to Sid do over 3,000 push ups and sit ups and eat a meal like I never saw before.
That was Sid Caesar. Everything was big, big big big. And when Sid and I would get together we would talk Russian to each other. (speaks in Russian). We would go to work out and everybody thought we were from Poland or Russia. (speaks Russian again). He was one in a million. Somebody so special I can’t tell ya. He wasn’t a collective type of friend. In other words where all these comedians get together and they talk. He was never– never socialized like that. But he was something special. You want to know what made him special? Nobody did what he did. I do dialects and I made a very good living doing my thing, but nobody did them like him. He would do the French. German. Everything he did was absolutely perfect.
More on Sid Caesar. Read film biographer Lesley Coffin’s remembrance “Why Sid Caesar Mattered.” Earl Douglas’ piece “Hail Caesar” details the incredible influence of Caesar’s comedy. More on Shecky Greene. You can follow Shecky and get news and information at sheckygreene.com.