A Yonkers native, Isaac Sidney Caesar (1922-2014) got his start playing saxophone and clowning around in Borscht Belt hotels. After he enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939, the service put these skills to use, and he performed in numerous touring musical revues to bolster troop morale. On one of these Tars and Spars, the director was Max Liebman, who would later go on to help tailor his act after the war, and became his producer on television. A smash run at the Copacabana led to a William Morris contract, a national tour, a Broadway show (Make Mine Manhattan) and a booking on Milton Berle’s Texaco Star Theatre.
From here Caesar got his own show The Admiral Broadway Revue in 1949, which then led to the legendary Your Show of Shows (1950-54), Caesar’s Hour (1954-57) and a succession of other shows well into the 1960s. His stable of writers included the greatest comedy scribes in the business: Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Selma Diamond, Mel Tolkin, et al! And his casts included the likes of Imogene Coca and Howard Morris.
After that Caesar continued to act in tv and films (notably It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Silent Movie and Grease), among several others.
Caesar gets a whole section in my book Chain of Fools, for THERE was a highly physical comedian. Reportedly shy in real life, before a camera he’d shout, scream, lose his cool, and above all cross his eyes. He always cited the Ritz Brothers as among his biggest influences. He outlasted most them. Sid Caesar was 92 at the time of his death.