Sid Caesar’s Archive of American Television Interview is now fully catalogued. Caesar is a seminal figure in early TV comedy and one of the first recipients of the Emmy Award for Best Actor (in 1952).
Sid Caesar emphasizes the challenge of doing live TV in the early days of the medium: “Doing a show live on television is a different animal altogether than doing TV today. I mean on tape, that’s like relaxing. That’s like going on vacation!” He recounts his early years as a performer, including his time writing and acting in shows for the Armed Forces. He notes how his first series, Admiral Broadway Revue was launched, that gave way to the now classic Your Show of Shows. He speaks about the phenomenon of “live” TV and the pressures and rewards of helming an hour-and-a-half weekly variety series. Caesar speaks about NBC’s decision to separate the network’s Your Show of Shows commodities by having producer Max Liebman do TV “spectaculars” and giving Caesar and co-star Imogene Coca their own shows. He expresses how surprised he was that Your Show of Shows was ending: “I said we’ve got a winning combination. What are you breaking things up for? Four years. That’s it?” Caesar then discusses his next successful venue, the variety series Caesar’s Hour, with Nanette Fabray filling the void left by Imogene Coca. From both Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour, Caesar chronicles such famous sketches as “The Professor,” “The Hickenloopers” and “The Haircuts.” He also humorously recounts many of the gaffes that occurred on “live” television, including the time he forgot the name of the guest star during the show’s introduction, when he was dressed in the wrong costume seconds before going on, and when his make-up pencil broke during his Pagliacci take-off (leading to one of his most-famous ad-libs). He then frankly discusses his bout with alcoholism and his decision to get sober. Lastly, he give his impressions of the many talented collaborators he worked with over the years, including: writers Larry Gelbart and Mel Brooks, and performers Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. Sid Caesar was interviewed in Beverly Hills, CA on March 14, 1997; Dan Pasternack conducted the three-hour interview.