Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sid Caesar's ghost

Sid Caesar, one of the world's greatest comedians passed away this week. He was the Bhishma of American television, its first great superstar comedian, starring in a show called "Your Show of Shows." See this one for a view of his talent - it features him as an bored audience member at a super-snob classical music recital.

Most Indians have never heard of him, and perhaps most Americans don't know who he was. More the pity.

Caesar assembled what was perhaps the greatest comedy writing team in history: not just American television history. They included:

Woody Allen, now a Hollywood movie director
Mel Brooks, film maker of terrific spoofs, and very funny actor
Neil Simon, Broadway playwright par excellence
Larry Gelbart, writer of MASH, one of the most successful TV sitcoms of all time
Carl Reiner, writer and actor of the Dick van Dyke show, the first great American sitcom
Mel Tonkin, the head-writer of this incredibly accomplished crew.
Sid Caesar's Writers
It is no co-incidence that MASH and Dick van Dyke were two of the wittiest television shows of all time (Frasier is perhaps the third), as epigrammatic as Oscar Wilde in their best moments, as physically hysterical as Chaplin or Jackie Chan, as crazy as Bugs Bunny when zaniness peaked. With a cast of superb actors, whom you could not separate from their characters - which was true of Sid Caesar's sketches.

They came together for this remembrance, called Caesar's Writers, which I saw in 1996, when I was in Seattle. For a while, after seeing this, my dream was to become a sitcom writer - it seemed far more fun than and just as creative as any science I had dreamed of in school, or any robotics I fantasized about in graduate school. I even wrote a sample screenplay for Frasier, which I inflicted on friends. And started writing several screenplays for movies, none of which I have attempted to finish.

But it gives me great pleasure to watch Sid Caesar anytime on Youtube. Now, I see, more have been uploaded. Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you the same pleasure - I hope you watch a few of Caesar's sketches on YouTube.

And Sid, it has been an honour and pleasure watching you, sir. Give my regards to Bob Hope and Ernest Lehmann and Chaplin and Billy Wilder and all the other greats. Wilde and Plum, too.

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