Sid Caesar (born Isaac Sidney Caesar on September 8, 1922) is an Emmy-winning comic actor and writer, best known as the leading man on the 1950s television sketch comedy series Your Show of Shows.
Caesar was born in Yonkers, where his father ran a lunch counter where immigrant workers would gather. From them Sid learned to mimic many of the accents that he would use throughout his career. After graduating high school, he planned on a career in music, playing the saxophone. While he earned a reputation as a talented musician in the "Borscht Belt" in the Catskills, he also began performing comedy sketches, and became a sensation.
Caesar served in the Coast Guard during World War II, organizing entertainment for the enlisted men. This took him to Los Angeles, where he got a part in two films, Tars and Spars, based on a wartime comedy routine he did, and The Guilt of Janet Ames. By 1949 he entered the new medium of television, hosting The Admiral Broadway Review.
Television was a natural medium for Caesar. Over the next few years he hosted such hits as Your Show of Shows (1950-1954), Caesar's Hour (1954-1957) and Sid Caesar Invites You (1958). These shows, particularly Your Show of Shows, brought together some of the greatest comic talent of the day, including Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. Many prominent writers got their start writing the skits, including Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen, Mel Tolkin, and Larry Gelbart.
Caesar's life took a turn when his show Sid Caesar Invites You was cancelled in 1958. In his autobiography he confesses that he turned to alcohol and drugs to overcome the insecurity of having a successful career unravel. He did make several appearances on Broadway, in television (The Sid Caesar Show, 1963-1964) and in the movies, most notably in Mel Brooks's Silent Movie in 1976 and as Coach Calhoun in 1978's Grease, but even though he continues to work, he has never recaptured the stature he had in the Golden Age of Television.