Watch: The Classical Music Comedy of Sid Caesar

Saturday, February 15, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Comedian Sid Caesar, who died Wednesday at age 91, is being remembered as a genius of television and comedy. Yet he had some serious musical experience too: he was a saxophonist who played in dance bands and orchestras in resorts in the Catskills; he audited several courses at Juilliard; and he could sing.

Caesar did a few comedy routines set to classical music: The most famous example of his rhythmic inventiveness came in "Argument to Beethoven's Fifth," which featured Caesar and Nanette Fabray bickering in cadence to the symphony's first movement.



Another routine featured some of Grieg's Piano Concerto, as seen in this grainy clip:

Caesar also dabbled in opera. A 1955 episode of "Caesar's Hour" on NBC features a spoof on the opera Pagliacci by Leoncavallo. The comedian plays the role of "Gallipacci" (Canio in the real opera) an actor in a traveling Italian comedia dell'arte troupe during the late 19th century.



Tell us about your favorite Sid Caesar moment in the comments box below:

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Comments [7]

What a delight to watch the skit on Beethoven's 5th. Thanks much.

Feb. 26 2014 10:46 AM
Jerry from New York City

I recall Imogene Coca once as a ballerina. But I can't recall the music to which she danced.
In one sense, everything that bunch did was "classic." One of my favorites was "Aggravation Boulevard" a parody of Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard." I am certain that the hand of Mel Brooks was in that, as it must also have been (along with Carl Reiner's) in the latter's interviews with The Professor with the battered top hat and the stage German accent. And I loved the parodies of classic Italian neo-realist films like Da Sica's "The Bicycle Thief" and Kurasawa's samurai epics. One of the characters was named Takametziah. (For that one, you had to be familiar with more than foreign films.) Larry Gelbart,the author of at least two Broadway hits and TV's "Mash." who had written for the sit-com "Ceasar's Hour" which was inaugurated after the demise of the unique "Show of Shows" credited the demise of that show to the "dumbing down" of the American audience.

Feb. 19 2014 06:28 PM
morty rosner from Teaneck,NJ

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at these videos though I had seen the Beethoven one before. Sid Caesar and his writers were comic geniuses who wrote for the kind of educated, sophisticated audience that seems to have shrunk.How many people today would understand the Grieg routine? It requires not only familiarity with the concerto but the ability to recognize the parody of a concert pianist. How many of us today have seen Pagliacci or would recognize a parody of hyperbole in Italian opera? Oh well, want a good laugh? Repeat after me: cheeburger, cheeburger,cheeburger......

Feb. 18 2014 08:03 PM
Rafi from Brooklyn

Well, by common accord the greatest moment is Howie Morris' Uncle Goopy with Sid in the This is Your Life parody. It's gutbusting stuff, but I also remember the first minutes of the sketch called The English, in which the cast just sat there, immobile, for minutes at a time while the laughter built. And the German general/doorman. And Progress Hornsby, the Professor, the Tarzan of Central Park—"What was your most dangerous enemy?" "Buick." Ah well, Sid, thanks and and hail farewell.
It should be remembered that Ernie Kovacs did some great music bits as well, including a series of cigar commercials set to Boccherini's Adagio (then thought to be by Haydn).

Feb. 18 2014 02:44 AM
Silversalty from Brooklyn

I vaguely remember watching Sid Caesar on "Your Show of Shows" though I can't remember any specifics. Looking at the videos I began to wonder if that sort of comedy, a descendant of vaudeville, could survive today. But of course it could and has, though in much more subtle ways. Johnny Carson credited Jack Benny with much of his comedy style, especially the turn of the head when a joke fell flat. The best comedians have a "look" that they give to end a joke or routine. Think John Belushi or Bill Murray. We're laughing at their comic spirit and comic spirit was what Caesar was all about.

Another comedian's theme but, thanks for the memories Sid.

Feb. 16 2014 10:17 PM
Karl Heistat from Bronx, NY

Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray,certainly knew Beethoven's Fifth Symphony well, to put so much detail into their pantomime of it. The same could be said of the Grieg Piano Concerto, which I thought was hysterical.

Feb. 16 2014 03:47 PM
CONCETTA NARDONE from Nassau

When I was very young, we watched Your Show of Shows. What great memories, Imogene Coca singing the Doll Song, the Silent Films, etc. It was a good time then for popular culture. And radio was also worth listening to. I also had Italian radio to listen to. Not too many things on tv worth wasting electricity on. Honey BooBoo, Real Housewives, Dance Moms, all shows that glorify bad behavior. Whatever happened to Shame. May Sid rest in peace.

Feb. 16 2014 08:26 AM

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