No cue cards. No teleprompter. No human prompter. No script. No nothing. Just you, spazzing out -- and a few cameras, broadcasting your low brow hi-jinx to millions. Talk about flying by the seat of your pants. Such was the infancy of television, those early bad old days when Ernie Kovacs and Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner and Woody Allen and many more ruled the airwaves as writers initially, and Sid Caesar ran the show. No. He was the show, in Your Show of Shows. What's breathtaking is how well so much of that material still holds up -- and how far reaching his influence has been/still is.
I know, I know -- we have The Groundlings, we have The Upright Citizens Brigade. We have a lot of comedy troupes nowadays that have churned out a few diamonds in the rough that institutions like SNL have polished to a brilliant sheen, more or less. But SNL hasn't been seriously funny in a really long time. And SCTV happened in the 80s. In Canada.
Very few artists get to live long enough to know how they mattered within their genre or that their work will outlast them. Sid is clearly amongst them. I don't know why but somewhere in there, I began to look for the ones whose work had outlasted them. I looked for the qualities that connected them. I deliberately veered away from the trendy, the popular, the now. I was certainly aware of what everyone else liked but I knew that there was something more. When I glimpse work that connects with the eternal, I know I'm on the right road.
Avoiding hacks at all costs is key, of course.
This is by far one of my favorite bits. Sid has this long drawn out wordless argument (!!!) with Nanette Fabray (quite the humdinger in her day -- and yes, she's still alive) -- with the Fifth of Beethoven as an aural backdrop.
I've got to work with Mel Brooks. I've just got to...!