Sid Caesar, the Jewish comedian who helped pave the way for American comedy as we know it today, died Wednesday in his Beverly Hills home after a brief illness, Variety reports.
Caesar, born in Yonkers to immigrant parents from Poland and Russia, began his career playing the saxophone and doing some comedy work in the Catskills. His breakout gig was the weekly live comedy program “Your Show of Shows.” Writers for the 1950s sketch show included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner.
“Inarguably he was the greatest single monologist and skit comedian we ever had,” Reiner told The Hollywood Reporter. “Television owes him a debt of gratitude for his pioneering work and the great shows he gave us all. Render onto Caesar what is his due. He deserves real applause from the American people.”
From Brooks: “Sid Caesar was a giant — maybe the best comedian who ever practiced the trade. And I was privileged to be one of his writers and one of his friends.”
“He was one of the truly great comedians of my time, and one of the finest privileges I’ve had in my entire career was that I was able to work for him,” read the statement The Hollywood Reporter obtained from Allen.
Among the first to pay respects via Twitter was Larry King.
Sorry to learn about the passing of Sid Caesar-a dear friend, a comic genius & an American classic- there will never be another one like him
— Larry King (@kingsthings) February 12, 2014
To hear King speak about Caesar in person, check out this video from the 2010 Chabad telethon. In the clip King introduces a highlight reel of Caesar’s famous double talk act, in which he babbles in foreign accents so convincingly, it sounds as if he’s actually speaking French, Italian, and of course, Yiddish.