Posted at 12:32 AM on September 7, 2012
by John Birge
Sid Caesar turns 90 tomorrow. He's a legend in comedy, but he started out in music.
When he was 14, he played saxophone in jazz bands in the Catskills. He studied music at Juilliard for a while, but also started incorporating comedy sketches in his band performances.
In 1939 he joined the Coast Guard band and collaborated on military shows with the famous songwriter Vernon Duke (composer of Autumn in New York, April in Paris, and Taking a Chance on Love). Eventually, Sid Caesar's comedy got more applause than his music, and a star was born.
Early live television made Sid Caesar famous around the country for his innovative writing and improvisation, like the famous "Argument to Beethoven's Fifth," in which Sid Caesar and Nannette Fabray play a married couple in a argument pantomimed to classical music. The video is online now at our Classical Notes blog.
Be sure to watch to the very end!
After that you can watch his spoof the Grieg Piano Concerto, and see Sid Caesar and Imogen Coca blow up the 1812 Overture.
Did you ever see/hear his parody of Lawrence Welk--Ricky Tick and his Ticktockers? A real comedy treasure: he starts them off by counting in a kind of asymmetrical 5, and it goes on from there.
Incidentally, it is Nanette Fabray.
Several years ago I produced a PBS program called Caesar's Writers. It was a reunion of almost all of his writers remembering life in the writer's room. Sid was eventually knocked because Lawrence Welk had better raitings. When the confronted that fact, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart all said in unison, "He was funnier than we were!" http://youtu.be/91RKgxUUGvw
Hi Win! Sure wish I could find the Lawrence Welk spoof on YouTube, but a quick search yielded no luck. (ps: the typo on "Fabray" is embedded on the video, so alas I can't change it)
Hi Marker, great to hear from you, so I can thank you personally for that PBS special, which I saw at the time and LOVED. What a time, when Giants roamed the earth -- and ruled the airwaves...