Sid Caesar, television pioneer and comedy legend, died Wednesday in his home in Los Angeles. He was 91. His longtime friend talk-show host Larry King broke the news on Twitter.
Born Isaac Sidney Caesar in Yonkers, N.Y., Ceasar made his first television appearance in 1949 on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater. Soon after, on February 25, 1950, Caesar appeared as an ensemble cast member in the first episode of Your Show of Shows, a 90-minute live comedy program featuring sketches and skits written by some of comedy's best writers: Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, Lucille Kallen and Mel Tolkin.
The hit show ended in 1954, but was followed by the successful Ceasar's Hour that ran until 1957.
Years of television comedy took their toll on Caesar and he turned to alcohol and barbiturates to manage the stress. According to Variety, in 1982, he wrote an autobiography and recalled his darkest periods: "At my worst, I had been downing eight Tuinals and a quart of Scotch a day. When I was awake I'd think of nothing but 'I must do it faster, kill myself faster.' I'd get up to take pills just to go back to sleep. I had no friends. My life was over."
Brooks sympathized with his struggle: "I know of no other comedian, including Chaplin, who could have done nearly 10 years of live television," he said. "Nobody's talent was ever more used up than Sid's."
However, Caesar became sober in 1977, and while never regaining his early levels of fame, he went on to star in popular exercise videos and movies including Grease and Grease 2. Inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1985, Caesar once told People that his philosophy of humor is simple. "I don't take myself too seriously," he said. "I just laugh at myself a lot and call myself a dummy."
He was married to his wife Florence Levy for almost sixty years until she died in 2010. Caesar is survived by two daughters and a son.
[Photo via AP]