Remembering the Godfather of TV comedy

By Kyle Anderson
Updated February 21, 2014 at 05:00 AM EST

Finding the legacy of Sid Caesar, who passed away at age 91 on Feb. 12, isn’t hard — just look inside his writers’ rooms: Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Carl Reiner all wrote for Caesar’s groundbreaking 1950s variety program Your Show of Shows; M*A*S*H producer Larry Gelbart worked on Caesar’s Hour; and Woody Allen penned jokes for a handful of his prime-time specials. But really, much of modern TV comedy stems from Caesar’s work, from the madcap sketches on Saturday Night Live to the late-night innovations of David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, and Jon Stewart. And Reiner’s experiences on Your Show of Shows helped inspire The Dick Van Dyke Show, giving birth to the sitcom as we know it. “All the great sitcoms that followed — All in the Family, Cheers, Frasier, Modern Family — owe [a debt] to Sid Caesar,” says Eddy Friedfeld, a friend and coauthor of Caesar’s 2003 autobiography, Caesar’s Hours: My Life in Comedy, With Love and Laughter. “There was quality and creativity [in Caesar’s comedy], and he was indefatigable.”