Sid Caesar, founding father of American Jewish comedy, dies at 91

Ceasar launched the careers of Jewish comics such as Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon and Woody Allen.

By JTA
February 13, 2014 17:48
Comedians Sid Caesar (R) and Billy Crystal

Comedians Sid Caesar (R) and Billy Crystal. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Sid Caesar, regarded as the founding father of American Jewish comedy and live original sketch comedy, has died.

Caesar, who reportedly has been in failing health for a year, died Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 91.

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He is best known for his Saturday night television variety show “Your Show of Shows,” which he hosted in the 1950s and launched the careers of Jewish comics such as Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon  and Woody Allen.

Known for his comic timing, improvisational skills and ability to mimic foreign languages, Caesar in 2000 received the Alan King Award in American Jewish Humor from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

When JTA asked him at the time if being Jewish had something to do with his comedic talent, he bristled, saying “You can be Jewish and be bad” at comedy.

Born in Yonkers, N.Y., the third son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia, Caesar launched his comedy career in 1942 while performing as a saxophonist.

He suffered a two-decade addiction to alcohol and pills that ended in the late 1970s, according to Reuters.


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