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Caesar's Hours: My Life in Comedy, with Love and Laughter

Overview

It is no exaggeration to say that without Sid Caesar, life in America would have been a lot less funny. He was the star and guiding force behind Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, two of the most innovative programs in the Golden Age of Television, and the writers and stars of those shows went on to create the plays, movies, and sitcoms that we now think of as classic American comedy. So many of our greatest comedy writers-Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen-were part of Sid ...
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Overview

It is no exaggeration to say that without Sid Caesar, life in America would have been a lot less funny. He was the star and guiding force behind Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour, two of the most innovative programs in the Golden Age of Television, and the writers and stars of those shows went on to create the plays, movies, and sitcoms that we now think of as classic American comedy. So many of our greatest comedy writers-Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen-were part of Sid Caesar's creative troupe. Caesar's Hours is Sid Caesar's touching, wise, lively, and funny artistic autobiography, his account of how these great routines were fashioned and performed, and the interactions that gave birth to them. He takes us inside his family, the famed writers' room, the rehearsal studios, and onto the stage itself, where some of the funniest moments in television history came to life.
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Editorial Reviews

Hollywood Reporter
A spry, enjoyable look back...Caesar has a fine time here revisiting some of television's finest hours.
The New York Times
… if you want to talk comedy, Caesar the Great is still the go-to guy. — Marilyn Stasio
The New Yorker
More than twenty years ago, Caesar delivered a memoir (“Where Have I Been?”) that detailed his rise to comic stardom in the fifties and the addiction to alcohol and tranquillizers that obliterated the next two decades. This volume revisits much of the same material, but with greater focus on the sources of Caesar’s style—for instance, he learned his trademark “double-talk,” a stream of nonsense sounding plausibly like a foreign language, from listening to the immigrant clientele at his father’s luncheonette. Some of his influences are more predictable than others. He admires the way Chaplin and Keaton worked “both sides of the street,” playing humor off against pathos. Caesar was a professional saxophone player before he moved into comedy, and he feels that that skill “was integral to my performing.”
Publishers Weekly
In the 1950s, Caesar was to comedy what Marlon Brando was to drama. Gifted in dialects, double-talk, linguistic logistics, mime, music, monologues and satirical sketches, all executed with razor-sharp timing, Caesar created "comedy based on truth" and received acclaim as a comic genius. His fade-out from the tube by the end of that decade left many wondering where he went. Caesar answered that question in his autobiography, Where Have I Been? (1982). Now, collaborating with film critic Friedfeld, he offers a satisfying salmagundi of memoir mixed with a probe into the mechanics of merriment. He opens with memories of saxophone lessons during his Yonkers, N.Y., childhood, followed by comedy in the Catskills. After studying at Juilliard, he played in several orchestras, and his WWII Coast Guard shows led to Hollywood, Broadway and TV's Admiral Broadway Revue (1949). On his legendary Your Show of Shows (1950-1954) and Caesar's Hour (1954-1957), he worked with the era's top comedy writers (Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon), and one chapter echoes the chortles and chaos of the famed Writers' Room (later recreated in films by Brooks, Reiner and Simon): "The energy in the Writers' Room was like a cyclotron.... No one ever finished a sentence that I can remember." Detailing many of his classic routines (some with script excerpts), Caesar's prose is appealing, informal and fun to read. Chapters like "The Art of Sketch Comedy" make this required reading for directors, writers and performers. Eight pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Nov.) Forecast: With New York Times ads and Caesar making the rounds of TV talk shows, the author's many loyal fans are certain to seek out this book. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sid Caesar's genius for satire ushered in the golden age of television in the 1950s and 1960s and inspired sketch comedy shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. Here, the king of comedy sheds light on the art of being funny, among the usual ups and downs of his personal life and career. On the theatrical review circuit in upstate New York, Caesar set himself apart from the aging burlesque performers with his pantomime skills, thinking that if he showed people how they looked when they did what they did, they would laugh. His humor led him to the fledgling NBC and Your Show of Shows, a hit thanks in part to a writing team that included Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon. Beyond that, Caesar credits the creativity required to work under the almost Victorian censorship of the day. At times a bit self-congratulatory, this chronicle overlaps somewhat with Caesar's straightforward autobiography, Where Have I Been? (o.p.). It does, however, flesh out his admittedly influential comedic philosophy. For all performing arts collections, especially those that specialize in U.S. television history.-Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Cty. Free Libs., Salinas, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586482831
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 1/3/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 540,047
  • Product dimensions: 0.76 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Sid Caesar was born in Yonkers, New York, in 1922 and began his career in comedy while a musician in the Catskills. He was a film and stage star by his mid-twenties, and in 1950 came the debut of Your Show of Shows, followed later in the decade by Caesar's Hour. Caesar has also starred in numerous Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. He lives in Beverly Hills, California. Eddy Friedfeld is an entertainment journalist and film critic. He lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

Introduction IX
Prologue: My First Laugh XI
Part 1 Portrait of the Comedian as a Young Man
1 A Yonkers Childhood 3
2 From Sax to Comedy 28
3 The Subway Commandos 37
4 Tars and Spars 52
5 A Show or a Steak 64
Part 2 The Golden Decade
6 Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour 81
7 The Writers' Room 119
8 The Hickenloopers and The Commuters 149
9 The Art of Sketch Comedy 170
10 The Professor 193
11 The German General and the Music of Double-Talk 203
12 "From Here to Obscurity," "Aggravation Boulevard," and Other Movie Satires 218
13 Sense Memory and Silent Movies 237
14 The Perils of Live Television 246
Part 3 A Legacy in Comedy
15 Conquering Demons: Now, Was, and Gonna Be 261
16 Ten from My Later Years, and One to Grow On 274
Epilogue: The Anniversary Ball 291
Acknowledgments 295
Index 297
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