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The comic, who forever changed the course of television with his groundbreaking 1950s live Saturday night variety shows Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour, was 91.
His two variety shows influenced the likes of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Imogene Coca, Nannette Fabray, Howard Morris, Lucille Kallen, Mel Tolkin and Fiddler on the Roof playwright Joseph Stein.
While Caesar’s work spans several decades — encompassing both film and TV — here’s a look at some of his most memorable performances.
Your Show of Shows
Show of Shows was a 90-minute show that debuted in 1950 when Caesar was 27 and ran through 1954 in an era before cue cards and Teleprompters. Its frenetic high-wire uncertainty made for great hilarity and produced back-to-back Emmys Awards in 1952 and ’53.
After Your Show of Shows, which ran for 160 episodes, Caesar started Caesar’s Hour. Also live, it collected three Emmys and featured his Show of Show mates Reiner and Morris (Coca left for her own show and was replaced by Fabray). At the time, half of all Americans who owned TV sets tuned in each week to watch the antics of Caesar and his cohorts.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Caesar memorably played dentist Melville Crump (with Edie Adams as his wife) in this 1963 film.
For a slightly younger generation, Caesar will always be remembered as Coach Calhoun in the Grease movies. In the first one, released in 1978, he memorably tried to help Danny Zuko (John Travolta) find a sport in which to excel in the high schooler’s efforts to impress Sandy (Olivia Newton-John).
History of the World: Part 1
For the 1981 movie, Caesar reteamed with frequent collaborate Brooks for this comedy, in which he played a caveman.
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