Sid Caesar and Your Show of Shows

The Birth of the Television Sketch Comedy Series


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About the Book

In the early days of television, “comedy” often meant stale vaudeville routines and stand-up. Then, in 1950, a new comedy-variety show debuted on NBC—Your Show of Shows. Its gifted and mercurial star, Sid Caesar, talented ensemble cast and superb writing staff—including Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Lucille Kallen and Mel Tolkin—would create comedy designed for the new medium and provide a template for successful shows that followed. With rare illustrations and the most complete sketch guide yet compiled, this book highlights Caesar’s reputation as a brilliant comic actor and describes the writing and production of the weekly live broadcast that kept 60 million TV viewers home on Saturday nights.

About the Author(s)

Karen Harvey is a retired professor of history whose previous publications include a monograph and essays on Catholics in 18th-century Ireland and numerous journal articles on the Scots-Irish in colonial America. She lives in Manhattan.

Bibliographic Details

Karen J. Harvey
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 252
Bibliographic Info: 14 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7149-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4183-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction 3
Part I—“Ladies and Gentlemen, the star of The Admiral Broadway Revue, Sid Caesar” 9
1. Origins 11
2. The Admiral Broadway Revue: Broadway Right into Your Home 28
Part II—“Ladies and Gentlemen, the star of Your Show of Shows, Sid Caesar” 37
3. Brought to You in Living Black and White: Television in the ’50s 39
4. The Writers’ Room: Comedy in a Pressure Cooker 51
5. Scripts Versus Performance: Whose Line Is It Anyway? 60
6. The Sketches: “Show Me the Brilliance” 67
7. Jewishness and Your Show of Shows: White Bread or Rye? 108
Part III—Rendering Unto Caesar 113
8. Caesar as Physical Comedian 115
9. Caesar as Comic Actor 132
Part IV—The End of Your Show of Shows 151
10. “Well, this was it” 153
Afterword 167
Appendix: Comedy Sketch Guide 171
Notes 227
Bibliography 237
Index 239