An overwhelming majority of entertainers seem less important in retrospect. As the years pass, the shade of their shadows fades and fades until their individual effect on the horizon is barely noticeable at all. With Sid Caesar, however, the opposite is true.

Following years in the military in which he contributed to various shows and revues, Caesar began working on movies and television shows in the late 1940s. In 1949, NBC handed him a variety hour called The Admiral Broadway Revue. That led into Your Show Of Shows, widely considered one of the greatest variety programs in TV history, as well as Caesar’s Hour and a ton of subsequent specials. Brilliant writers and actors like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris, Bea Arthur, Jackie Cooper, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon and Woody Allen were all given a microphone or a typewriter to prove their talent thanks to Caesar. Collectively, they would change the world and the television industry forever.

In that way, Caesar is a little bit like Johnny Carson. For a different generation, he was the man whose stamp of approval was needed. He was the beloved figure who told Americans to stand up and watch and told network executives to consider giving a larger stage to certain acts. So many will forever be indebted to him because of that, but even beyond that portion of his legacy, he was also a brilliant comedian in his own right.

A multiple Emmy Award winner and Tony nominee, he criss-crossed between mediums and genres throughout his life. He played Melville Crump in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Coach Calhoun in Grease and amusingly, the old dude who dies moments after winning the lottery in Vegas Vacation. He also appeared in some Mel Brooks films, more than his share of Broadway plays and even some operas. He was truly a chameleon.

If you have some time, remember Caesar by watching some of his funnier and more interesting moments below…

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