In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_48xgnfxyg4he9kln4dy4adzra2l

A Walk in the Woods

These guys still know how to not just hold our attention but grab it, even if their current film needs them more than they need…

Thumb_large_xbjzcdnnuxx7z1v5g68dtbpgfid

War Room

War Room preaches that we have no call to be righteous and judge others, yet the film itself is righteous and judgmental in the extreme.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Ten from Your Show of Shows

  |  

The release of "Ten from Your Show of Shows" - a collection of 10 sketches from the legendary Sid Caesar TV show - has inspired a flood of nostalgia from those who remember when Caesar was the most incredibly popular star on the infant medium.

I cannot join in the nostalgia, alas, because I never saw the original "Your Show of Shows." Television came belatedly to my hometown (I think there was some kind of court battle over who would get the license), and by the time we got TV, Sid Caesar was already off the air. I spent the early 1950s still listening to radio and going to the movies, which possibly accounts for the fact that MY nostalgia - for Jack Benny, Johnny Dollar, Bob and Ray, Your FBI in Peace and War and, yes, even the Lone Ranger - draws a lot of blank stares from people who were watching television then.

The fact that I never saw Caesar at the time didn't mean I wasn't a fan of his. On the contrary, there was nothing I wanted more desperately than to see "Your Show of Shows." There was one kid in school whose uncle had put up an enormous TV antenna in his back yard, and was able to bring in Peoria and even Indianapolis on good nights. Every week after the Caesar show, this kid would do imitations of the skits. Without ever having seen Caesar, I knew by hearsay he was the funniest man in America.

That instinctive opinion turns out to have been mostly true; "Ten from Your Show of Shows" recreates the moments when television was inventing itself. Today it would seem impossible to do a weekly 90-minute live comedy program in front of an audience; in 1950, they did it because there wasn't any other way to do it. After all, wasn't radio usually live, too?

The immediacy of the sketches - the fact that they took place in real time before real audiences - made the show funnier than the canned stuff we get today. Timing was so much more important, and it's timing, for example, that makes the show's funniest skit work. Caesar plays a man who is literally dragged kicking and screaming out of the audience for "This is Your Story." Forced to re-live his past, he's saddled with a fanatically affectionate uncle (Howard Morris) who fastens himself to Caesar and won't let go. The sketch builds from an ordinary satire to a berserk madhouse - but at exactly the right pace, so we never feel Caesar pushing.

The other sketches exhibit Caesar's range. There's a hilarious parody of "From Here to Eternity," and another one called "The Sewing Machine Girl" about silent movies. There's a pantomime in which all the regulars (Caesar, Morris, Carl Reiner, Imogene Coca) play a Bavarian cuckoo clock. There's a domestic scene between Caesar and Coca in which he gradually discovers that the wife she's telling him about - the one who ran her car into a drug store - is, in fact, herself. And there's a funny skit in which Caesar, sitting at the movies with about 18 sticks of gum in his mouth, gets in the middle of a lover's quarrel. "Ten from Your Show of Shows" works as nostalgia, I suppose; but it doesn't need it. It's funny even if you've never heard of Sid Caesar - which would be, I suppose, an impossibility.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Wes Craven 1939-2015

An obituary for Wes Craven.

The Unloved, Part 21: Anonymous

Scout Tafoya's Unloved series continues with Roland Emmerich's "Anonymous."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus