Tag Archives: Mel Brooks

The Brilliance Of Sid Caesar – Five Of His Great Comedy Sketches

Sid Caesar, Master Of Sketch Comedy Dies At 91

Sid Caesar Feb 9 1953When certain celebrities pass away it hits me hard. Sid Caesar was always one of my favorite comedians. His death at the age of 91 in Beverly Hills, CA on February 12, 2014, closes the book on the big TV comedy stars during the golden age of prime time television of the 1950’s. Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Ed Wynn, Jackie Gleason, Ernie Kovacs, Phil Silvers – they’re all gone now.

Sid Caesar’s meteoric rise at breakneck speed from 1950-1954 on Your Show of Shows and from 1955-1957 on Caesar’s Hour was offset by a steep fall into depression with drug and alcohol problems, which took him many years to recover from.

To modern audiences Caesar may be best known for his movie appearances in Grease (1978) as Coach Calhoun and It’s A Mad, Mad Mad, Mad World (1963) as one of the treasure pursuers. But I would say for most people under the age of 40, the name Sid Caesar will draw a blank stare when mentioned. That is a shame.

Here is a sketch that pre-dates the current health food craze by sixty years.

What Sid Caesar accomplished besides entertaining millions with his hilarious sketches that the common man could relate to, was to bring together a staff of talent that influences modern comedy to this day.

The writing and performing staff included Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, Lucille Kallen, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris, Danny Simon, Mel Tolkin and Larry Gelbart. It is no exaggeration to say the annals of comedy would not have been the same without Sid Caesar.

As the New York Times pointed out in its obituary of Sid Caesar:

A list of Mr. Caesar’s writers over the years reads like a comedy all-star team. Mel Brooks (who in 1982 called him “the funniest man America has produced to date”) did some of his earliest writing for him, as did Woody Allen. Continue reading

“Mongo” – Alex Karras NFL Star Dies At 77

Karras, Famous For Stellar NFL Career, Will Always Have A Place in Movie Comedy History

Alex Karras died in Los Angeles at the age of 77 on October 10, 2012 due to kidney failure and other health complications.

The Detroit Lions All-Pro defensive tackle will be remembered by many as a great football player who played from 1958-1970. But I, along with many other people, will remember his acting career which stretched from 1968 -1998. Mel Brooks comedy fans especially loved Karras’ portrayal as the monosyllabic ruffian cowboy, Mongo, in Brooks brilliant 1974 western satire Blazing Saddles.

Karras did not have many scenes in the movie, but they were all very funny.

This scene below is the one that shocked audiences: Karras’ one punch knockout of a horse.  As an fyi -Karras did not actually hurt the horse and people would later come up to him and ask how he could do such a horrible thing.  “I thought it was hilarious, but I didn’t want to hurt that horse at all, believe me,” Karras said in a 2011 interview with the “Sports and Torts” Internet radio show. “I’m not the type of person to do that.”


A Comedian Unlike Any Other

The Man Who Pushed Johnny Carson, Charlie Callas Dies at 83

For many people under a certain age (probably 40), the passing of Charlie Callas on January 27, 2011, will be met with indifference or “who was he?” But for anyone who had seen Callas interviewed on his numerous appearances on the late night talk shows or seen his cameos in movies, it marks the end of one the last true eccentrics in Hollywood.

Charlie Callas was bizarre.

He could do strange things with his voice and get laughs out of things that were not necessarily funny. It was Callas himself that was funny and there was that underlying danger that an appearance by Callas on a show could go in an unintended direction at any second.  That unpredictability would nearly end his show business career when he shoved Johnny Carson during a 1982 Tonight Show appearance and in front of the studio audience Carson subsequently banned him from ever appearing on the show again.

Charlie Callas will always be remembered for one of the strangest performances in Mel Brooks’ send-up of Alfred Hitchcock films, 1976’s High Anxiety. Callas plays a man who has been committed to an asylum because he thinks he is a cocker spaniel.  It is 1 minute and 40 seconds of sheer silliness.

Here is the link to Charlie Callas in High Anxiety:


(UPDATE – 2013 High Anxiety clip- all copies removed from youtube)

A staple of 1970’s TV, The Dean Martin Roasts, where celebrities were insulted and joked about mercilessly by other Hollywood celebrities, Callas has comedian Don Rickles and the rest of the attendees laughing hard as he delivers Don Rickles’ eulogy.

The appearance may not be as funny to today’s audience as Callas is doing an impression of George Jessel, who made a living it seemed at delivering eulogies of many of the entertainment world’s luminaries from the 1920’s right until Jessel’s own demise in 1981.